Hahn Splits an Atom of Uranium (Great Events from History II: Science and Technology Series)
Article abstract: Hahn led the group that established uranium fission.
Summary of Event
When Adolph Hitler seized power in Germany on January 30, 1933, Otto Hahn did not think Hitler’s regime would last. But Hitler was still in power ten years later, and Hahn refused to work on military research for Hitler. In this the world was fortunate, for military research in Hahn’s field led to the atomic bomb.
Hahn was a superb experimentalist; specifically, he was a radiochemist. He headed the department of radioactivity of the chemical division of the Kaiser Wilhelm Research Institute in Berlin, and had done so since its inception in 1912. Together with a colleague, Lise Meitner, he discovered a new element which they named protactinium. He enjoyed a modest fame which gave him some protection against Hitler’s followers.
Much of Hahn’s work lay in discovering the chain of decay products of the naturally occurring radioactive elements. Uranium, for example, is a natural element which is radioactive; that is, it emits radiation. Upon so doing, it changes or decays into a “daughter” element, thorium. Thorium, in turn, decays to radium, which decays to radon, and so forth, with the ultimate end product being a stable form of lead. As one element decays into another, three types of radiation may be emitted. Ernest Rutherford, under whom Hahn once studied, named them for the first three letters of...
(The entire section is 1999 words.)
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