As was pointed out in the comments of my post about Lise Meitner the other day, I forgot to mention that she actually had the last laugh. You see, Meitner received what is arguably one of the greatest honours a scientist can ever receive. She now has an element which bears her name!
Meitnerium, element number 109, first synthesised in 1982 and named in 1997 – poetically, superheavy “transuranic” elements like this one were exactly what Lise Meitner was originally trying to create.
Interestingly enough, there was some controversy over the names of several such heavy atoms, with several proposals of names in honour of different scientists from various parts of the world. The full intricacy of that story deserve to be told in their own right, but for now I’ll simply make mention of a piece of quite permanent justice. Otto Hahn, who received the Nobel prize which should also have belonged to Meitner, was nominated to have an element named after him. But the element “Hahnium” (which was considered at different times for elements 105 and 108) was never to be, and Hahn would never have his name on the periodic table. Throughout the naming controversy, however, one name was never once disputed – everyone agreed that 109 should be given the name of Meitnerium!