Ida Tacke-Noddack

* 25.2.1896 (Lackhausen/Wesel) 24.9.1979 (Bad Neuenahr) Germany
Fields of activity: Science
Author: Brigitte Nguyen-Duong

Ida Noddack-Tacke


 "When heavy nuclei are bombarded by neutrons, it would be reasonable to conceive that they break down into numerous large fragments which are isotopes of known elements but are not neighbours of the bombarded elements". (Ida Tacke-Noddack)

“And Ida was right after all” (Otto Hahn)


Why I have chosen this woman:

At the beginning of the 20th century, it was very seldom, that women got recognition for their scientific achievements. Ida, one of the first female chemists in Germany, made pioneering discoveries, but she was not taken seriously by the world of scientists or was even ridiculed. She continued researching tirelessly. Only in 1966, at the age of 70 she was accordingly awarded by the German Federal Cross of Merit, the  “Bundesverdienstkreuz”.

Research and work

Ida Noddack contributed two very important discoveries to the world of science. Unfortunately, this happened in a period, in which women found very little recognition in a scientific society of men. During the Third Reich women even experienced a setback in emancipation.

The doctoral graduated chemist and her team in the laboratory of the Physical Technical Reich-Institute Berlin, succeeded in discovering the missing element 75 of the Periodical System. She called it “Rhenium” in honour of her Rhenian homeland. She discovered with her team one more element 43, which she named Masurium after the homeland of her husband. But this was not recognized by the scientific community at that time. Some years later, two scientists got awarded for the discovery of this element 43, which they named however TC (Technetium).

Her second immensely important scientific discovery concerned the theory of nuclear fission. Nobody had the idea before that “when heavy nuclei are bombarded by neutrons it would be reasonable to conceive that they break down into numerous large fragments” (publication of Ida Tacke-Noddack in Angewandte Chemie. 47. 1934). World renowned researchers in this field did not take notice of her suggestion. Even Otto Hahn thought that her idea was absurd. Four years later, Otto Hahn discovered, together with Lise Meitner, the nuclear fission. This proved how genial were the ideas of Ida Tacke-Noddack. And eight years later, Fermi was able to take the first nuclear reactor in operation. Ida even lost her employment. Later on she worked in the laboratory of her husband in Freiburg and Strasbourg without pay.

Short biography

Ida was born as the daughter of the manufacturer of paints Adalbert Tacke in Lackhausen, district of Wesel on the Rhine, in the house “Wohlgemut”, where she spent her childhood. In Wesel, she attended a girls’ secondary school. For high school graduation she had to go for two years to St. Ursula School in Aachen. Her father supported her to study chemistry as one of the first women at the Technical University in Berlin.

In 1921, at the age of 25, she received her doctorate. Her first employment was at AEG Company in Berlin. However after two years working in the industry she was drawn again by research. She joined a team at the Physikalisch Technischen Reichsanstalt in Berlin, in which her future husband Walter Noddack was researching too.

Ida and Walter got married in 1926. Together they devoted their whole life to experimenting and scientific research of undiscovered and unknown things in chemistry and physics. So came about the amazing scientific achievements.

In 1935, the couple moved to Freiburg and later to Strasbourg in order to work at the university there.

Although Ida nor Walter had never been a member of the Nazi Party, after the Second World War all their research documents had disappeared. Disappointed and without any employment they moved to Turkey from where they returned after several years. Ida’s husband, Walter Noddack became director of the newly founded State Research Institute for Geochemistry in Bamberg. Ida started to work there in several projects related to the rare earth elements. Walter died suddenly in 1960 of a heart attack.  Despite serious illness, Ida continued to work hard and unpaid on her researches.

Her last years she spent in a Seniors’ Residence in Bad Neuenahr. In 1978 she was buried at her husband’s side in Bamberg.



Between 1932 and 1937, together with her husband, Ida was a proposed for the Nobel Prize, but they never received it, possibly because of the political situation in Germany from the international perspective.

1919 First Prize, department of chemistry and metallurgy, Technical University, Berlin

1921 Dotorate at the Technical University, Berlin

1925 First woman to give a major address to the Society of German Chemists

1931 Justus Liebig Medal, German Chemical Society, for the discovery of rhenium

1934 Scheele Medal, Swedish Chemical Society

1934 Honorary Member, Spanish Society of Physics and Chemistry

1963 Honorary Member, International Society of Nutrition Research

1966 Honorary Doctorate, University of Hamburg

1966 Bundesverdienstkreuz of the German Federal Republic

After her death, in Bamberg, a street and a house were named after her.

2006, in Lackhausen, on the occasion of her 110th birthday, a memorial plate was attached to her birth house and a street was named after her




„Forschung, Suche und Sucht“ Dr. Hans Georg Tilgner, Herstellung: Libri Books on

Demand, 1999.