Outcasts and Opportunities: The Effect of World War II on the Careers of Female Physicists

Outcasts and Opportunities: The Effect of World War II on the Careers of Female Physicists

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Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn working with equipment in their laboratory at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Dahlem, Berlin, Germany.

Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn working with equipment in their laboratory at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Dahlem, Berlin, Germany.

AIP Emilio Segre Visual Archives.

Students will learn how World War II impacted women’s careers in science, including the Manhattan Project and beyond. They will research the work of some women scientists who achieved success during and after the War. However, students will come to understand that these stories were the exception to the norm, and that many women were stuck in low-level, temporary positions. Finally, students will debate whether women should have retained their status in science and industry after the War’s end. Note: It is recommended that this Guide be used after completing the AIP Teacher’s Guides:

  • Chien-Shiung Wu: Chinese Nuclear Physicist,
  • Marietta Blau: Austrian Particle Physicist,
  • Lise Meitner: Austrian Nuclear Physicist
  • Leona Woods Marshall Libby: American Nuclear Physicist