September 24, 1978 - Death of Ida Eva Tacke-Noddack, German chemist who discovered rhenium and first proposed the idea of nuclear fission

Matrimonio Noddack

Née Ida Tacke, she was one of the first Germans to study chemistry at the Technical University of Chartottenburg in Berlin, where she graduated in 1919 and received her doctorate in 1921.

In 1925, she took a turn in her career to dedicate herself to science, and began working in the laboratory of the Imperial Institute of Technical Physics, which was directed by Walter Noddack, also a chemist, whom she married in 1926, adopting the surname Noddack. .


A year earlier, and together with the X-ray expert, Otto Berg, they identified element 75, naming it “Rhenium”, from Rhenus, the Latin name for the Rhine River. It is a very rare metal in nature (1 gram for every 660 kilos of molybdenum), being the last element in the table to be found in its natural form. Its main deposits are today in Chile and Kazakhstan. For this discovery, the couple received the Liebid Medal of the German Chemical Society in 1931.

At the same time, Tacke and Noddack identified another element on the periodic table, number 43, which they named "Masurium," after the German victory over the Russians at the Masurian Lakes. Not being able to determine it in successive experiments, the finding remained unconfirmed until in 1937 when it was achieved by the Italians Carlos Perrier and Emilio Segré, who named the element “technetium”.

In 1934, a work by Enrico Fermi was published in Nature magazine, according to which "the bombardment of uranium atoms with neutrons produced a radioactive substance", but the couple published another article in Magazine for use in chemistry, with another hypothesis, contrary to what was stated by Fermi, in which "uranium upon receiving neutrons could decompose into large fragments that would be isotopes of known elements, but not neighbors of the irradiated element". This was the first prediction of what would later be called nuclear fission, but it was ignored because it implied a major departure from accepted views of nuclear physics and was not supported by any theory to explain it. Years later, in 1939, the investigations of Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann and Lise Meitner would prove Tacke-Noddack right, so it is undeniable that the idea of nuclear fission was his.

In 1935, the couple moved to the Physical-Chemical Institute of the University of Freiburg (Germany), where she worked as an associate researcher, until 1941, when they moved to the French University of Strasbourg, a city then occupied by Germany. When this city returned to French control in 1944, they returned to Germany and after the end of World War II they settled in Turkey for several years.

In 1956, they returned to their country to work at the Bamberg State Institute for Geochemical Research. After becoming a widow, on December 7, 1960, she remained in Bamberg until 1968, when she retired.

In addition to the Liebig Medal, he was awarded the Scheel Medal of the Swedish Chemical Society (1934), an honorary doctorate from the University of Hamburg, and the Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (both in 1966). Along with her husband, she was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1933, 1935 and 1937).

If you want to know more about this scientist, click on the following link: Ida Eva Tacke-Noddack

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