Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner’s Call to Science

­Atheneum. Mar. 2022. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781665902502.
Gr 5 Up–In brief verses that paint vivid pictures, Atkins, the author of Finding Wonders, Grasping Mysteries, and other biographies of famous women, presents the complicated and often tragic life of Lise Meitner, the Austrian physicist who was instrumental in the discovery of nuclear fission. Born at a time when women were not permitted to study beyond primary grades nor pursue scientific careers, Lise nonetheless persisted, earning a PhD in physics from the University of Vienna and eventually becoming a full professor at the University of Berlin. While her research was widely published and admired, she was forced to relinquish credit for all that she accomplished to the men with whom she worked. Since she was Jewish, her safety and her work became imperiled after Hitler’s rise to power, and she and colleagues were forced to flee to safer countries. While she and Otto Hahn searched for a new element on the periodic table, Lise uncovered the secrets of nuclear fission—but Otto alone received the Nobel Prize for the discovery, since Lise was not free to publish her findings. She refused to work on the development of the nuclear bomb, and although she was honored for her accomplishments after the war ended, she struggled with the consequences of her discoveries. Although the text’s format does not lend itself to research, the concluding author’s note, time line, and brief biographies of Lise’s friends and colleagues help ground this compelling story in history.
VERDICT With her portrait of a determined, brilliant physicist, Atkins presents a moving, lyrical tale that reveals the struggles of female scientists and of European Jews between the two World Wars.

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