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Molecular Biology

Molecular Biology Experts

Otto Hahn

Former Vice president
Molecular Biology
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics
United States of America


Otto Hahn was born the son of master glazier and merchant Heinrich Hahn in Frankfurt am Main on 8 March 1879. The youngest of four brothers, whose father actually wanted him to be an architect, Hahn went on to study chemistry at the universities of Marburg and Munich after completing his schooling in his home town. He received his doctorate in 1901 under Theodor Zincke at Marburg with a dissertation on organic chemistry (The bromine derivates of isoeugenol). He then completed his military service in 1901/02. After two years as an assistant in Marburg (1902-1904) he went to England to work under Sir William Ramsay (1904/05). There he received an induction into the new field of radioactivity and discovered a radioactive substance, radiothorium. To further his education he went to Montreal, Canada, in the winter of 1905/06 where he worked under Ernest Rutherford. One of the discoveries he made there was another radioactive substance, radioactinium. On the strength of this work and on the suggestion of Sir William Ramsay, Otto Hahn decided to remain in the field of radium research and in 1906 went to work as an assistant at the University of Berlin's Institute of Chemistry under Professor Emil Fischer (until 1910). He obtained his postdoctoral lecturing qualification there in 1907 (without a thesis). In the meantime he had discovered another radioactive substance, mesothorium, which later became important as a substitute for the more expensive radium. In 1910 he became associate professor at the University of Berlin (until his resignation in 1934). From 1914 to 1918 he was an officer in the First World War, serving in Fritz Haber's chemical warfare unit, among other divisions.

Research Interest

Molecular Biology, Neurobiology

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