Fritz Strassmann

Fritz Strassmann

Fritz Strassman was born in Boppard, Germany, on 22nd February, 1902. Strassman studied physics at the Technical University at Hannover and received his Ph.D in 1929.

Strassman helped develop the rubidium-strontium method of dating used in geochronology. He joined Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry and in 1938 discovered that uranium nuclei split when bombarded with neutrons.

In 1938 Lise Meitner, like other Jews in Germany, was dismissed from her university post. She moved to Sweden and in 1939 wrote a paper on nuclear fission with her nephew, Otto Frisch, where they argued that by splitting the atom it was possible to use a few pounds of uranium to create the explosive and destructive power of many thousands of pounds of dynamite.

During the Second World War Strassman and Otto Hahn continued to work in the field of nuclear physics but they made no attempt to turn their knowledge into a military weapon. Hahn had a strong dislike for Adolf Hitler and his government and told a friend: "If my work would lead to Hitler having an atomic bomb I would kill myself."

After the war Strassman became professor of inorganic and nuclear chemistry at the University of Mainz. He was also director of the chemistry department at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. Fritz Strassman died in Mainz, West Germany, on 22nd April, 1980.