‘Remembering Lise Meitner’, theatre to raise awareness on the role of women in science

  • Science Park
  • March 3rd, 2021
Una imagen del acto

The Instituto de Física Corpuscular (UV-CSIC) and the CRIT theatre company have presented the ‘Meitner Project’, a joint initiative to raise awareness on the role of women in science. The cycle consists of a play, a scientific conference and a competition, all around the figure of Lise Meitner, the physicist who contributed to discover the nuclear fission and was forgotten by the Nobel Prize Committee. The play ‘Remembering Lise Meitner’ will be performed at the Riealto Theatre in Valencia, from 11 to 14 March. The journalist Rosa Montero is taking part in the conference.

At the presentation, which took place online and in person at ‘La Casa de la Ciència’ (the Valencian headquarters of CSIC), Juan Fuster, the CSIC’S institutional delegate in the Valencian Community, expressed his satisfaction at hosting the presentation of this ambitious project 'that brings the public closer to such an important figure in the history of science, who has been very unfairly little or unrecognised’.

The event was also attended by the president of the CSIC, Rosa Menéndez; the Principal of the University of Valencia, M. Vicenta Mestre; the general manager of the Institut Valencià de Cultura, Abel Guarinos, and the CSIC research professor at the IFIC and promoter of the project, Berta Rubio. The latter recalled the importance of the figure of Lise Meitner for nuclear physics thanks to her contributions to the discovery of nuclear fission, the process on which energy is obtained from the atomic nucleus.

This important scientific contribution makes it all the more obvious that the Nobel committee did Meitner an injustice by awarding her prize for the discovery of fission to other male colleagues. This is one of the examples that will serve for reflection at the science and gender conference ‘Pioneres en Física Nuclear i de Partícules’ (Pioneers in Nuclear and Particle Physics), which will be held on 9 and 10 March at the Burjassot Campus of the University of Valencia. It will be attended by leading feagures from the world of science and literature, such as Rober Marc Friedman, author of the play, playwright and full university professor of History Science and Rosa Montero, journalist and writer.

Theatre as a ‘cornerstone’

But this project’s cornerstone is the performance of the play ‘Remembering Lisa Meitner’, which premiered in Sweden in 2002 and has been adapted on Norwegian, German, Italian and American stages. Anna Marí, director of the CRIT theatre company, revealed the details of its Spanish adaptation, which will open at the Rialto Theatre of Valencia on 11 March at 7pm. Until 14 March, there will be performances aimed at secondary school pupils and the general public, with a colloquium where spectators will be able to ask questions to a panel of experts. The Valencian actress Victoria Salvador plays Lise Meitner, together with Álvaro Báguena and Panchi Vivó.

'It is a matter of justice to highlight the contributions of women who, rowing against the tide, have contributed to the advancement of science,' said the principal Maria Vicenta Mestre. 'We institutions have the responsibility to bring to light role models such as Lise Meitner so that the younger generations can learn from them. It is clear that the more you scratch the surface, the more women who have been fundamental to science appear', she continued, after expressing her gratitude to Berta Rubio and Anna Marí, the promoters of the project. ‘This is a creative experience that combines science and art and humanises scientific activity through emotions. Emotions move the behaviours of people who change the world, and this initiative can be a precedent to boost women’s scientific vocations. It is essential to ease the way for science to reach everyone, and doing so through creativity, through the combination of science and art, of science and emotions, is an excellent way to achieve it’, has concluded the principal of the University of Valencia.  

Rosa Menéndez, president of the CSIC, has taken up this idea, highlighting the ‘excelent way of communicating science through theatre, where a common atmosphere is created with the spectator to give a well-deserved recognition to the figure of Lise Meitner.’ In this sense, Menéndez recalled that the world of science has never been easy for women, something that is still evident today with the decline in the enrolment of young women in scientific-technical degrees. The president of the CSIC stressed the importance of projects that bring together science and art, such as the one launched by the IFIC, ‘which help to win scientific vocations among young women and girls, to convince them that the world of science is also full of creativity; it is a rewarding world due to the exchange of ideas with different people and cultures’.

Contest and social networks.

The main objective of the Meiner Project is to recover, revalue and raise awareness to the contribution of great pioneers of Nuclear and Particle Physics through Lise Meitner. But the initiative also promotes social equality, encourages scientific vocations and highlights the barriers that women scientists have faced throughout history. Other institutions as the Institut Valencià de Cultura, the Fundació General CSIC and the Equality Unit of the University of Valencia have also joined in, enabling other activities to be organised.

One of them is ‘EXPRESS-ARTE CONCIENCIA’, a multidisciplinary contest supported by the Fundación General CSIC through its ‘Cuenta la Ciencia’ programme, which combines science, arts and humanities. The initiative is aimed at secondary school and training cycle students. They can participate through any artistic expression of image, video or writing, in groups or individually, as long as they are supervised by a teacher from their school. In addition, through the project's website and social networks, the IFIC team carries out a series of actions to raise awareness of other pioneering women in Physics and the history of science, as well as those women who are today dedicated to research in Nuclear and Particle Physics.

The ‘Meiner Project’ is supported by The Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology - Ministry of Science and Innovation.

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