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Friedrich Wilhelm "Fritz" Straßmann (February 22, 1902 - April 22, 1980) was a Germanmarker chemist who, with Otto Hahn in 1938, identified barium in the residue after bombarding uranium with neutrons, which led to the interpretation of their results as being from nuclear fission. Strassmann was recognized by Yad Vashemmarker Holocaust Memorial as Righteous Among the Nations.

Life and career

Born in Boppardmarker, he began his chemistry studies in 1920 at the Technical University of Hannovermarker and earned his Ph.D. in 1929. He did his Ph.D. work about the solubility of iodine gaseous carbonic acid.Strassmann started an academic career because the employment situation in the chemical industry was much worse than at the universities at that time.

Strassmann worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlinmarker-Dahlem, from 1929.

In 1933 he resigned from the Society of German Chemists when it became part of a Nazi controlled public corporation. He was blacklisted. Hahn and Meitner found an assistantship for him at half pay. Strassmann considered himself fortunate, for "despite my affinity for chemistry, I value my personal freedom so highly that to preserve it I would break stonesfor a living." During the war he and his wife Maria Heckter Strassmann concealed a Jewish friend in theirapartment for months, putting themselves and their three year old son at risk.

Strassmann’s expertise in analytical chemistry was employed by Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner in their investigations of the products of uranium bombarded by neutrons. In December 1938, Hahn and Strassmann sent a manuscript to Naturwissenschaften reporting they had detected the element barium after bombarding uranium with neutrons; simultaneously, they communicated these results to Meitner, who had escaped out of Germany earlier that year and was then in Sweden. Meitner, and her nephew Otto Robert Frisch, correctly interpreted these results as being nuclear fission. Frisch confirmed this experimentally on 13 January 1939. In 1944, Hahn received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the discovery of nuclear fission. Some historians have documented the history of the discovery of nuclear fission and believe Meitner should have been awarded the Nobel Prize with Hahn.

In 1946 he became professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of Mainzmarker and 1948 director of the newly established Max Planck Institute for Chemistrymarker. He later founded the Institute for Nuclear Chemistry.

In 1957 he was one of the Göttinger 18, who protested against the idea of the Adenauer government to force the Western German army with tactical nuclear weapons.

President Johnson honored Hahn, Meitner and Strassmann 1966 with the Enrico Fermi Award. The International Astronomical Union named an asteroid after him: 19136 Strassmann.

On April 22, 1980, Strassmann died in Mainzmarker.

Internal report

The following was published in Kernphysikalische Forschungsberichte (Research Reports in Nuclear Physics), an internal publication of the German Uranverein. Reports in this publication were classified Top Secret, they had very limited distribution, and the authors were not allowed to keep copies. The reports were confiscated under the Allied Operation Alsos and sent to the United States Atomic Energy Commission for evaluation. In 1971, the reports were declassified and returned to Germany. The reports are available at the Karlsruhe Nuclear Research Center and the American Institute of Physics.

  • Otto Hahn and Fritz Straßmann: Zur Folge nach der Entstehung des 2,3 Tage-Isotops des Elements 93 aus Uran G-151 (27 February 1942)


  • Fritz Straßmann: "Über die Löslichkeit von Jod in gasförmiger Kohlensäure", Zeitschrift f. physikal. Chemie. Abt. A., Bd. 143 (1929) and Ph.D. thesis Technical University of Hannover, 1930
  • Fritz Krafft: Im Schatten der Sensation. Leben und Wirken von Fritz Straßmann; Verlag Chemie, 1981

  • Hentschel, Klaus (Editor) and Ann M. Hentschel (Editorial Assistant and Translator): Physics and National Socialism: An Anthology of Primary Sources (Birkhäuser, 1996)

  • Walker, Mark: German National Socialism and the Quest for Nuclear Power 1939–1949 (Cambridge, 1993) ISBN 0-521-43804-7

External links


  1. O. Hahn and F. Strassmann Über den Nachweis und das Verhalten der bei der Bestrahlung des Urans mittels Neutronen entstehenden Erdalkalimetalle (On the detection and characteristics of the alkaline earth metals formed by irradiation of uranium with neutrons), Naturwissenschaften Volume 27, Number 1, 11-15 (1939). The authors were identified as being at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Chemie, Berlin-Dahlem. Received 22 December 1938.
  2. Ruth Lewin Sime Lise Meitner’s Escape from Germany, American Journal of Physics Volume 58, Number 3, 263- 267 (1990).
  3. Lise Meitner and O. R. Frisch Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: a New Type of Nuclear Reaction, Nature, Volume 143, Number 3615, 239-240 (11 February 1939). The paper is dated 16 January 1939. Meitner is identified as being at the Physical Institute, Academy of Sciences, Stockholm. Frisch is identified as being at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Copenhagen.
  4. O. R. Frisch Physical Evidence for the Division of Heavy Nuclei under Neutron Bombardment, Nature, Volume 143, Number 3616, 276-276 (18 February 1939). The paper is dated 17 January 1939. [The experiment for this letter to the editor was conducted on 13 January 1939; see Richard Rhodes The Making of the Atomic Bomb 263 and 268 (Simon and Schuster, 1986).]
  5. Ruth Lewin Sime From Exceptional Prominence to Prominent Exception: Lise Meitner at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry Ergebnisse 24 Forschungsprogramm Geschichte der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus (2005).
  6. Ruth Lewin Sime Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics (University of California, 1997).
  7. Elisabeth Crawford, Ruth Lewin Sime, and Mark Walker A Nobel Tale of Postwar Injustice, Physics Today Volume 50, Issue 9, 26-32 (1997).
  8. Hentschel and Hentschel, 1996, Appendix E; see the entry for Kernphysikalische Forschungsberichte.
  9. Walker, 1993, 268-274.

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