Lilli Hornig

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Lilli Hornig
Lilli Schwenk

(1921-03-22)March 22, 1921
Ústí nad Labem
DiedNovember 17, 2017(2017-11-17) (aged 96)
Providence, Rhode Island
Academic background
Alma materBryn Mawr,
Harvard University
Academic work
InstitutionsManhattan Project,
Brown University
Trinity College
Notable worksHigher Education Resource Services

Lilli Hornig (née Schwenk; March 22, 1921 – November 17, 2017) was a Czech-American scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project, as well as a feminist activist.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Hornig was born in Ústí nad Labem in 1921[4] to Erwin Schwenk, an organic chemist, and the former Rascha Shapiro, a pediatrician.[5]

In 1929 her family moved to Berlin. Four years later she and her mother came to the United States, following her father who had moved there to escape the Nazis.[2] As her parents were Jewish, her father was threatened with imprisonment in a concentration camp.[6]

She obtained her BA from Bryn Mawr in 1942 and her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1950.[3] In 1943 she married Donald Hornig.


Hornig went with her husband to Los Alamos where he had obtained a job; after being originally asked to take a typing test, her scientific skills were recognized and she was given a job as a staff scientist for the Manhattan Project, in a group working with plutonium chemistry.[7][8]

Later it was decided that plutonium chemistry was too dangerous for women, and so she worked in high-explosive lenses instead. While at Los Alamos she signed a petition urging that the first atom bomb be used on an uninhabited island as a demonstration.[7]

Hornig later became a chemistry professor at Brown University,[9] and chairwoman of the chemistry department at Trinity College in Washington, D.C.[7][10] She was appointed by President Johnson as a member of a mission to the Republic of Korea that began the founding of the Korea Institute for Science and Technology.[3]

A feminist, Hornig was the founding director of HERS (Higher Education Resource Services) under the auspices of the Committee for the Concerns of Women in New England Colleges and Universities first organized by Sheila Tobias.[3] She served on equal opportunity committees for the National Science Foundation, the National Cancer Institute, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was the research chair of the Committee for the Equality of Women at Harvard, and consulted with and participated in many studies of women's science education and careers.[3]

Hornig was a Life Trustee of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and was a trustee of the Wheeler School.[3]


Hornig died on November 17, 2017, in Providence, Rhode Island, aged 96.[11]


  • Climbing the Academic Ladder: Doctoral Women Scientists in Academe
  • Hornig, L.S. (2012). Equal Rites, Unequal Outcomes: Women in American Research Universities. Innovations in Science Education and Technology. Springer Netherlands. ISBN 978-94-010-0007-9. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  • Women Scientists in Industry and Government: How Much Progress in the 1970s. Washington, D.C., 1980. ISBN 9780309030236, OCLC 256349315
  • Scientific sexism, New York: New York Academy of Sciences, 1979. OCLC 802457414
  • From My Life. The Memoirs of Richard Willstätter. New York: W.A. Benjamin, 1965. OCLC 612707312


Lilli was interviewed for the documentary The Bomb.


  1. ^ Martin, Douglas (2013-01-26). "Donald Hornig, Last to See First A-Bomb, Dies at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Voices of the Manhattan Project, Lilli Hornig's Interview". Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Untitled" (PDF). Wesconnect, Wesleyan University. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  4. ^ "Destrukce ji nepřekvapila. Rodačka z Ústí pracovala na bombě pro Nagasaki". 6 August 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  5. ^ Roberts, Sam (21 November 2017). "Lilli Hornig, 96, Dies; A-Bomb Researcher Lobbied for Women in Science". Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Lilli Hornig's Interview". Retrieved 27 November 2017.
  7. ^ a b c "Chemical & Engineering News". American Chemical Society. July 17, 1995. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  8. ^ Ruth H. Howes (April 1, 2003). Their Day in the Sun: Women of the Manhattan Project. Temple University Press. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-1-59213-192-1.
  9. ^ "Lilli Hornig". Brown University News. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  10. ^ "Dr. Lilli Hornig: A Prophetic Voice | President's Office - Trinity Washington University". 2017-12-03. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  11. ^ "Lilli Hornig, 96, Dies; A-Bomb Researcher Lobbied for Women in Science". The New York Times. November 21, 2017. Retrieved November 27, 2017.

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