In 1938 Lise Meitner (1878–1968), along with Otto Hahn (1879–1968) and Fritz Strassmann (1902–1980) discovered the process of fission in uranium and thorium. This fundamental discovery immediately contributed to the discovery of the nuclear chain reaction and the development of nuclear weapons and ultimately nuclear power.
Meitner had come to Berlin to attend Max Planck's lectures on theoretical physics after receiving her doctorate in physics from the University of Vienna in 1905—the second doctorate in science from that university granted to a woman. She teamed up with Hahn when he was searching for a collaborator to pursue studies in experimental radioactivity. In the first year of the Hahn–Meitner partnership they had to work in a remodeled carpenter's shop because the university did not yet accept women on an official basis. In 1912 their research group was relocated to the new Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft. From 1918 Meitner was head of the radioactivity institute's physics department. During World War I, Meitner volunteered as an X-ray nurse for the Austrian army.
In 1938 Meitner had to leave Berlin because the Nazis were closing in on all people of Jewish ancestry. She soon found a congenial setting for her research at the Nobel Institute in Stockholm.