Lise Meitner at work at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute
Lise Meitner was Jewish, though she later converted to Protestanism, and was a committed pacifist as well. Therefore, she found it necessary to get out of Germany as quickly as possible. She fled first to Holland on an invalid passport, then to Niels Bohr's home in Copenhagen. She finally got across the North Sea to Sweden, just ahead of Nazi patrol boats. There she published a clear explanation of nuclear fission energy in 1939. Her paper expressed hope for a "promised land of atomic energy." Her aims had nothing to do with bombs; but of course her paper launched furious bomb-making efforts among the warring nations.
Later in 1939 she sent that strange cable to her friend in England. And he understood the name Maud Ray to be code for radium. The telegram warned him the Germans were stockpiling radium, and Meitner didn't like the implications of that one bit.
Meitner in 1963. She died in 1968.
She later recieved word asking her to join the Manhattan Project. But she didn't like that any better. Six years later she was appalled to see how quickly her work led to devastation in Japan.
Years later, Lisa Meitner became the first woman to receive a share of the Fermi Award for her physics -- and, implicitly, for her contributions to the bomb she never wanted to make.
She was 88 and begged off -- said she wasn't up to the trip, so Glenn Seaborg went to London and brought the prize to her.
Adapted from: John Lienhard at the University of Houston, Engines of Our Ingrenuity: http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi305.htm