Ada Lovelace Day 2010

Happy Ada Lovelace Day to all the women out there toiling in the technology sector and the sciences!

Today, I want to write about the second woman to have a element of the periodic table named after her, Lise Meitner.  She could arguably be the first woman in her own right to do so, I don’t know if curium was named after Marie Curie alone or Marie and Pierre;.  (All praise is due to the divine Kate Beaton for the awesome shirt, I treasure mine.)

Lise Meitner was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, but got shut out of the Nobel Prize in chemistry her colleague Otto Hahn got in 1944 (grrr).  In addition, she independently discovered the Auger effect in 1923, where electrons emitted by surface atoms under bombardment with an electron beam have characteristic energies.  Pierre Auger seems to get all the credit in 1925 for this (double grrr).  A few of my co-workers do Auger electron spectroscopy as part of their jobs.

Interestingly enough, she has element 109, meitnerium, named after her, and Otto Hahn can’t have an element of his own, because the Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry rejected hahnium as a name for element 105 (dubnium), according to Theodore Gray, in his awesome book of chemistry pr0n (pretty pictures and interesting information about all the elements discovered to date).

May her memory last far longer than the longest lived isotope of meitnerium (mass 278, half life ~30 minutes per Wikipedia)!

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