Otto Hahn is best known for discovering nuclear fission along with Fritz Strassmann in 1938. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Hahn was born at Frankfurt am Main, on 8th March, 1879. He attended secondary high school in that town until he graduated and moved on-to college. From 1897 Hahn studied chemistry at Marburg and Munich. He took his doctorate examination in 1901 at Marburg, as well as submitted a thesis on organic chemistry to Professor Theodor Zincke. He accquired a post as assistant in the Chemical Institute at Marburg, staying there for two years.
Afterwards, at University College, London, he worked under Sir William Ramsay, from the autumn of 1904 to the following summer of 1905. He was rewarded for his work there with the discovery of a new radioactive substance, radiothorium, while working on the preparation of pure radium salts. Radiothorium is a radioactive substance formed as one of series of products in the chain of radioactive decay of thorium. From post 1904 to pre 1905, Hahn then worked under Professor Ernest Rutherford at Physical Institute of McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
Here he discovered radioactinium, which is the radioactive isotope of thorium that has a mass number 227 and a half-life of 18. 8 days, its symbol is RdAc. He conducted investigations with Rutherford on alpha-rays of radiothorium and radioactinium. When Hahn returned to Europe, he moved to the Chemical Institute of the University in Berlin. There, during the spring of 1907, he became qualified as a university lecturer. Hahn also happened to discover mesothorium during the year of 1907. At the end of 1907, Dr. Lise Meitner came to Berlin from Vienna.
Then they began more than thirty years of collaboration. Their joint work involved investigations on beta-rays, their absorbability, magnetic spectra, and things such as the use of the radioactive recoil, which was discovered shortly before by Hahn, to get new radioactive transformation products. Hahn’s work was interrupted between 1914 and 1918 by his service in World War One, but he continued his research with Professor Meitner in 1918, and discovered protactinium, the mother substance of the actinium series.
He then discovered uranium Z, the first case of a nuclear isomerism of radioactive kinds of atoms. Using radioactive methods, he investigated the absorption and precipitation of the smallest quantities of substances, as well as abnormal and normal formation of crystals. Soon after the discovery of artificial radioactivity by M and Mme. Joliot-Curie and the use of neutrons by Fermi for atomic nuclear processes, Hahn yet again collaborated with Professor Meitner and after that, with Dr. Strassmann on the processes of ir-radiating uranium and thorium with neutrons.
Hahn’s work had won recognition by many people. In 1912, he became a scientific member of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. Since 1928, he had been Director of this Institute. On April 1, 1946, he had officially become the President of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society. Hahn served as President of the Max Planck Society in Western Germany, on February 28th, 1948, and became Honorary President for the same Society on May, 1960. With the end of 1938 came his greatest discovery. While working with Dr. Strassmann, Hahn discovered the fission of uranium and thorium in medium heavy atomic nuclei.
His first work on these subjects surfaced on January 6 and February 10, 1939, in Naturwissenschaften. Since that time up until 1944, Hahn continued investigation on the proof and separation of many elements and kinds of atoms which arise through fission. Hahn has been granted membership of the Academies of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Copenhagen, Allahabad, Rome (Vatican)Berlin, Gottingen, Munich, Halle, Stockholm, Vienna, Boston, Madrid, Helsinki, Lisbon, and Mainz,. In 1913 Hahn married Edith nee Junghans. Edith was an art teacher as well as an artist.
The two of them only had one son, Hanno, who was born on April 9, 1922, in Berlin. He dabbled in theatre, German studies, philosophy, Italian art, architectural history, being a soilder, He traveled quite a lot. On August 29, 1960, after participating in a conference in Bath , southern England, and a study tour of Northern France Hanno and Ilse Hahn, he was caught in a tragic car accident in which Hanno Hahn was fatally injured. Ilse Hahn, his wife, was convicted with two fractures of the cervical spine in the Clinique des Mines de Briey, but died soon afterwards.