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Just before the First World War two German scientists James Franck and Gustav Hertz carried out experiments where they bombarded mercury atoms with electrons and traced the energy changes that resulted from the collisions Their experiments helped to substantiate they theory put forward by Nils Bohr that an atom can absorb internal energy only in precise and definite amounts In 1921 Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner discovered nuclear isomers Over the next few years they devoted their time to researching the application of radioactive methods to chemical problems In the 1930s they became interested in the research being carried out by Enrico Fermi and Emilio Segre at the University of Rome This included experiments where elements such as uranium were bombarded with neutrons By 1935 the two men had discovered slow neutrons which have properties important to the operation of nuclear reactors Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner were now joined by Fritz Strassmann and discovered that uranium nuclei split when bombarded with neutrons In 1938 Meitner like other Jews in Nazi Germany was dismissed from her university post She moved to Sweden and later that year she wrote a paper on nuclear fission with her nephew Otto Frisch where they argued that by splitting the atom it was possible to use a few pounds of uranium to create the explosive and destructive power of many thousands of pounds of dynamite In January 1939 a Physics Conference took place in Washington in the United States A great deal of discussion concerned the possibility of producing an atomic bomb Some scientists argued that the technical problems involved in producing such a bomb were too difficult to overcome but the one thing they were agreed upon was that if such a weapon were developed it would give the country that possessed it the power to blackmail the rest of the world Several scientists at the conference took the view that it was vitally important that all information on
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