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The Age of InnocenceNuclear Physics between the First and Second World Wars$
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Roger H. Stuewer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198827870

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198827870.001.0001

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The New World

The New World

Chapter:
(p.393) 15 The New World
Source:
The Age of Innocence
Author(s):

Roger H. Stuewer

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198827870.003.0015

On December 19, 1938, Otto Hahn wrote to Lise Meitner in Stockholm, asking her if she could propose some “fantastic explanation” for his and Fritz Strassmann’s finding of barium when bombarding uranium with neutrons. She and Otto Robert Frisch found such an explanation for what he called “nuclear fission” over the Christmas holidays, based on Gamow’s liquid-drop model of the nucleus. Bohr was astonished by this, but in 1936 he had speculated that the uranium nucleus would just explode. He, his son Erik, and his associate Léon Rosenfeld then took a ship to New York, arriving on January 16, 1939. Rosenfeld reported the discovery of fission that evening to the Princeton physics journal club. On January 26, physicists everywhere learned about this stunning discovery when Bohr and Fermi reported it at a conference in Washington, D.C. Physicists entered the New World of Nuclear Physics, taking Humanity with them.

Keywords:   nuclear fission discovery, nuclear fission interpretationliquid-drop model, nuclear fission confirmation, Bohr in America, Bohr–Fermi fission announcement

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