Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Temporary Exhibit Opens!

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is hosting a special exhibition that will explore the world-changing scientific discoveries of two remarkable women: Marie Curie and Lise Meitner. The “Inspired Excellence” exhibition will deepen a visitor’s knowledge of the trials and tribulations that faced both and to showcase the spirit and contributions of each. “Inspired Excellence” opened on Saturday, July 3, 2010 and will run through the end of the year.

Curie and Meitner endured incredible challenges during the Victorian era when women were not welcome in the field of scientific discovery. Despite a lack of financial support, unsophisticated academic facilities, and little recognition of their endeavors, they persevered and triumphed.

Marie Sklodowska Curie and her husband Pierre Curie experimented together and discovered two radioactive elements, polonium and radium. They worked four years to acquire a very small quantity of radium in order to prove there really was such an element. In 1903, Pierre and Marie along with Henri Becquerel received the Nobel Prize in physics for their work and their discovery of radioactivity. In 1911 she received a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry, for her work in radioactivity. She was the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes and the only person ever to win Prizes in two sciences.

Lise Meitner worked with Otto Hahn. She and Hahn discovered a radioactive element and named it protactinium. Although she collaborated heavily with him, Hahn, received the credit for the work. In 1938, she escaped Germany with no personal possessions, eventually relocating to Stockholm, Sweden. In 1944 Hahn would receive the Nobel Prize in chemistry for the interpretation of nuclear fission. Meitner was not mentioned, leading many to say this was the greatest oversight ever made by the Nobel Prize committee. In 1997, twenty-nine years after her death, the chemical element 109, the heaviest known element was named Meitnerium in her honor.

Visit the Museum today to learn more about these amazing women!