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Table of Contents
Otto Hahn was a German chemist who discovered radioactive elements and nuclear fission in the 1920s and 1930s. He is referred to as the father of nuclear chemistry and received a Nobel Prize in that subject area in 1944.
See the fact file below for more information on the Otto Hahn or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Otto Hahn worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE OF OTTO HAHN
- Otto Hahn was born on March 8, 1879, in Frankfurt. He was the youngest of four children, and his family lived above his father’s workshop. His father was a glass tradesman.
- It was around age 15 that Hahn took an interest in science, particularly chemistry.
- His parents had wanted him to become an architect, but he was passionate about chemistry and chose to pursue that.
SCHOOLING AND EARLY CONTRIBUTIONS TO SCIENCE
- In 1897, Hahn began studying chemistry at the University of Marburg, with his subsidiary subjects being math, physics, philosophy, and mineralogy (the latter two of which he prefered).
- He had three mentors in his third and fourth semesters at school:
- Adolf von Baeyer – organic chemistry
- Friedrich Wilhelm Muthmann – physical chemistry
- Karl Andreas Hofmann – inorganic chemistry
- After receiving his doctorate from Marburg in 1901, he spent a year in the 81st Infantry Regiment (as opposed to two, because he has a doctorate).
- After his time in the military, he returned to Marburg and worked for two years as a chemistry lecture assistant to his doctoral supervisor, Theodor Zincke.
- In 1904, he went to London to work with Sir William Ramsay on radioactivity at the University College of London. He also wanted to learn how to read, write, and speak English.
- While at the college, he discovered a new isotope, called radiothorium, while working on the preparation of pure radium salts.
- Encouragement from Ramsay pushed Hahn to continue studying radioactivity.
- Hahn spent the later months of 1905 until the summer of 1906 in Montreal, Canada, at the Physical Institute of McGill University working under Professor Ernest Rutherford – it was here that he discovered radioactinium (thorium-227), polonium-212, and lead-210.
- He also conducted many experiments with Rutherford.
- Hahn returned to Germany in 1906, and he would later become head of a small department of radiochemistry at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry at Berlin-Dahlen.
- At Berlin-Dahlen, he worked with fellow Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner and a small group of scientists.
- They worked together for over thirty years, and their work was embraced by the scientific community.
- They were the first to discover nuclear fission of uranium when it absorbed an extra neutron.
- In June 1911, he met a woman named Edith Junghans while attending
a conference in Stettin (modern-day Poland).
- A few years later, on March 22, 1913, the two married.
- They had a child in 1922.
WORLD WAR I
- In August 1914, Hahn was conscripted into the German Army, where he was placed in a special unit for chemical warfare.
- Within the unit, Hahn worked with his comrades to develop, test, and
produce poison gas, which was used on both the eastern and western fronts.
- After World War I, Hahn continued his work with Meitner.
- They were the first to discover protactinium, a long-lived mother substance of the actinium series. They also discovered an artificially active uranium isotope, which represents the basic building blocks of the elements neptunium and plutonium.
- The work done by Hahn and Meitner earned them several nominations for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the 1920s.
- Hahn created a new field of work in the early 1920s, called “applied radiochemistry”, for the researching of general chemical and physical-chemical questions. A book was published in 1936 that included his American lectures on the subject.
- In 1938, while working jointly with Meitner and his assistant,
Fritz Strassman, Hahn discovered the process of nuclear fission.
- The implications of his discovery were realized by scientists before the outbreak of World War II.
- Hahn campaigned against further testing and development of nuclear weapons.
- In 1966 Hahn, Meitner, and Strassman shared the Enrico Fermi Award.
- Unfortunately, in 1960, his son and daughter-in-law were killed in a car accident, which began a period of sadness and depression for Hahn and his wife.
- Otto Hahn died in Gottingen, West Germany, on July 28th, 1968.
- Many cities and districts in Germany have named schools, streets, and squares after Hahn to commemorate his life.
Otto Hahn Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Otto Hahn across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Otto Hahn worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Otto Hahn who was a German chemist who discovered radioactive elements and nuclear fission in the 1920s and 1930s. He is referred to as the father of nuclear chemistry and received a Nobel Prize in that subject area in 1944.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Otto Hahn Facts
- Chemistry and World War II
- Otto Hahn Wordsearch
- Commemorative Stamp
- Otto Hahn Crossword
- Contributions Timeline
- Troubling Implications
- Chemistry Vocabulary
- Scientific Photo Puzzle
- Hahn Acrostic
- Opinion Piece
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