Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Otto Hahn, a German chemist, received international recognition after receiving the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, according to the Nobel Prize committee, "for his discovery of the fission of heavy nuclei." He received 39 nominations for the Nobel candidacy. Best known for his research into nuclear chemistry and radioactivity, it was his work proving the existence of nuclear fission that gave him the Nobel Prize. With Lise Meitner, he was the discoverer of the element 91, protactinium during work in 1918. He studied chemistry at the University of Marburg, receiving his Ph.D. in 1901. Going to England in 1904, he began to study radiochemistry under 1904 Nobel Prize recipient, Sir William Ramsey, discovering and isolating a number of isotopes of radioactive elements. In 1905 he went to Canada to work with 1908 Nobel Prize Recipient Ernest Rutherford at McGill University in Montreal, where he discovered more isotopes. Returning to Germany in 1906, he began research at the University of Berlin and met his best-known colleague, Lise Meitner in 1907. The collaboration of these two scientists continued for 30 years, each heading a section in Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. In 1933 he accepted appointment as Visiting Professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. In 1936, he published one of his most important works, “Applied Radiochemistry,” which had a major influence on the later work of Glenn Seaborg, who would go on to discover many of the transuranium elements at University of California at Berkeley. In 1938, he was able with his co-workers, which included Meitner with her nephew Otto Frisch, to confirm and describe the concept of nuclear fission, for which he would receive the 1944 Nobel Prize, though he did not receive permission to accept the award during World War II by Adolph Hitler. He was able to have the discovery published in a professional periodical in January of 1939. He continued to work on this topic throughout the war, though he was not a part of the Nazi atomic bomb project, possibly due to his co-researching with Meitner, who had fled Germany in 1938, as well as his anti-Nazi stance. He actually received his Nobel Prize in 1945. After the war, he was interned for questioning in England as part of Operation Epsilon, returning to Germany in 1946, where he settled in Göttingen. In 1946, he founded and was first president of the Max Planck Society and came out strongly against the use of atomic energy for military purposes. He was originally the namesake for element 105, as hahnium, but this element was later renamed by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry to dubnium. He has appeared on postage stamps of both East and West Germany, and a commemorative five mark West German coin was issued in his honor in 1979 on the 100th anniversary of his birth. A number of scientific awards bear his name, as well as craters on the Moon and Mars and an asteroid. He married and the couple had one son, who was killed in an accident in 1960.
Bio by: Kenneth Gilbert