Lise Meitner – Celebrating a scientist who never lost her humanity

One-day symposium which was held in January 2019 celebrating the pioneering female scientist who helped to discover nuclear fission and whose refusal to be excluded on grounds of sex or race has inspired both scientists and artists.

Panel 1: The life and work of Lise Meitner

Who was Lise Meitner, and what did she do?


  • Dr Graham Farmelo (Science writer and historian) (Chair)
  • David Rennert (Science Editor, Der Standard)
  • Professor Ruth Lewin Sime (Meitner biographer)
  • Dr Annette Vogt (Meitner biographer)

Panel 2: The Scientific and Political Legacy of Lise Meitner

Why should she be remembered? How does her work influence the science of today and what are the practical applications to have come out of her research? What lessons does her life teach us about overcoming exclusion on grounds of gender and race?


  • Professor Dame Athene Donald (Master, Churchill College & Professor of Experimental Physics, Cavendish Laboratory) (Chair)
  • Georgina Ferry (Science writer)
  • Professor Valerie Gibson (High Energy Physics, Cavendish Laboratory)
  • Professor Heinz-Eberhard Mahnke (Freie Universität, Berlin)
  • Tanja Traxler (Science Editor, Der Standard)

Panel 3: Humanity and Science

Humanity and science – What does the inscription on her gravestone really mean? What is it about Meitner that is inspiring art and theatre as well as science?


  • Dr Helen Curry (Senior Lecturer in History of Modern Science & Technology, University of Cambridge) (Chair)
  • Dr Jessica Wade (Imperial College, London)
  • Stefan Frankenberger (author of audiobook on Meitner’s life in exile)
  • Sandra Schüddekopf (Theatre director)

Radiation. Nuclear fission. Frequency hopping


© Photographs by Reinhard Werner


As part of the symposium, portraittheater  presented Curie_Meitner_Lamarr_indivisible, featuring anecdotes from the lives of Double Nobel Prize winner and discoverer of radioactivity Marie Curie (1867-1934), Austrian-Swedish nuclear physicist Lise Meitner (1878-1968) and Viennese Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) with her invention of frequency hopping.  These were three outstanding pioneers representing the achievements of women in the field of science and technology. The play tells of their achievements, their struggles and their passion for their work. Directed by Sandra Schüddekopf, with Anita Zieher impersonating the three women, and complemented by music and videos, the play is an entertaining portrait of three extraordinary women in history.