Otto Hahn (1879-1968) was a German physical chemist who is famous for his experiment that proved the atom could be split. He was born on March 8, 1879, in Frankfurt, Germany. His father was a well-to-do tradesman. He took his degrees in organic chemistry from the University of Marburg. His intent was to work in one of the German chemical firms, but his adviser, Theodor Zincke, sent him to England to study English. It was on a visit to London in 1904 that famous English chemist Sir William Ramsay introduced Hahn to research in the field of radioactivity. His research led him to the discovery of radiothorium, which was one of thorium's 12 isotopes. The next year Hahn traveled to Montreal and worked with Ernest Rutherford on thorium radiation. After a year at McGill University, Hahn returned to Germany for a position as an assistant in the Institute of Organic Chemistry of Emil Fischer in Berlin. At the time in 1906, Hahn was the only chemist in Berlin conducting research on radioactivity. It was shortly afterward in 1907 that he started his 30-year collaboration with Austrian physicist Lise Meitner. In 1912, he moved with Meitner to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry, where he stayed until leaving for military service in 1914. Most of his work in World War I was with the development and military uses of poison gas.
After the war, Hahn returned to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, where he conducted chemical experiments on radioactive materials. Since Hahn was anti-Nazi, his position at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute became precarious after the Nazis took power. When Lise Meitner had to leave Germany in 1938, he helped her escape to Sweden. He continued his experiments with another chemist, Fritz Strassmann but consulted with Meitner on the physics side of the results. In December 1937 and January 1938, Hahn com-