Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi


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Enrico Fermi was the foremost Italian physicist of the 20th century. Upon arriving in the United States, he devoted his energies to the national interests of his adopted country.Fermi was born on September 29, 1901, in Rome. After a scholarship to work with Max Born in Gottingen and a Rockefeller Fellowship to study with Ehrenfest in Leyden, he returned to Italy to take the post of Lecturer in Mathematical Physics and Mechanics at the University of Florence.In the following years, Fermi worked on problems relating to fundamental particles. He developed a mathematical treatment that became known as Fermi's Statistics to describe the behavior of a class of particles now known as fermions. For his work, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1938.Immediately after receiving the award, Fermi left for the United States, where he took a post as Professor of Physics at Columbia University in New York City, which he held until 1942. He spent the remainder of the World War II years at the Manhattan Project laboratory in Los Alamos.After the war, Fermi became a professor at the Institute for Nuclear Studies at the University of Chicago. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, 40 miles west of Chicago, is named after Enrico Fermi.


Enrico Fermi was born in Rome at the very beginning of the 20th century. At the time, no one could have imagined the impact his scientific discoveries would have on the world.

Interestingly, Fermi didn't get interested in physics until after his brother died unexpectedly during a minor surgery. Fermi was only 14 and the loss of his brother devastated him. Looking for an escape from reality, Fermi happened upon two physics books from 1840 and read them from cover to cover, fixing some of the mathematical errors as he read. He claims he didn't realize at the time that the books were written in Latin.

His passion was born. By the time he was just 17, Fermi's scientific ideas and concepts were so advanced he was able to head directly to graduate school. After four years of studying at the University of Pisa, he was awarded his doctorate in physics in 1922.


Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi's father was Alberto Fermi and his mother was Ida de Gattis. Ida was a remarkable person who was the daughter of an army officer. She trained as a school teacher and taught in elementary schools for most of her life. Highly intelligent, she was the major influence on her children after her marriage to Alberto in 1898 . Ida was 27 years old when she married but her husband Alberto was 41 . He worked for railway companies in various parts of Italy but had moved to Rome in 1888 . He was promoted to inspector in the year he married Ida and by the end of his career he had risen to play a major role in what was by that time the state owned railway company. Enrico was the third of his parents' children having an older sister Maria ( born in 1899) and older brother Giulio ( born in 1900) . In line with the custom of the time, Enrico was brought up by a nurse away from the family until he was about 30 months old. He was then strictly brought up although the family were not religious ( something which upset Alberto's family who were all devout Catholics except Alberto ) .

Entry to the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa was by competitive examination. Fermi sat the exam on 14 November 1918 and wrote an essay on the given theme of Characteristics of sound. In his essay Fermi derived the system of partial differential equations for a vibrating rod, then used Fourier analysis to solve them. It was written at the level of a doctoral thesis rather than a school examination. When the examiner read Fermi's entry he was so amazed that he set up a meeting with him, telling him that it would undoubtedly win the competition and moreover that Fermi would without doubt become a famous scientist.

In Pisa Fermi was advised by the director of the physics laboratory Luigi Puccianti. Perhaps we should clarify this statement, for although Puccianti nominally had this role he acknowledged that there was little that he could teach Fermi, and frequently he asked Fermi to teach him something. Soon Fermi was publishing papers, his first Sulla dinamica di un sistema rigido di cariche elettriche in moto traslatorio Ⓣ being published in 1921 . Another publication in 1921 was followed by the most important of his early papers in the following year, namely Sopra i fenomeni che avvengono in vicinanza di una lina oraria ( On the phenomena occurring near a world line ) . This paper gave an important result about the Euclidean nature of space near a world line in the geometry of general relativity. Fermi submitted his doctoral thesis Un teorema di calcolo delle probabilità ed alcune sue applicazioni Ⓣ to the Scuola Normale Superiore and was examined on 7 July 1922 . Laura Fermi writes about this event in [ 3 ] :-

The thesis was published in his Collected Works in 1962 . After the award of his doctorate Fermi returned to Rome and began working with the mathematicians there, particularly Castelnuovo, Levi-Civita and Enriques. He also made contact with the director of the physics laboratory. In October 1922 he was awarded a Government Scholarship which enabled him to work with Max Born in Göttingen in the first half of 1923 . He was then appointed to teach mathematics to scientists in Göttingen during the academic year 1923 - 24 . After spending the summer of 1924 hiking in the Dolomites, he went to Leiden to work with Ehrenfest. He returned to Italy for the start of academic year 1924 - 25 and he spent that academic year and the following one as a temporary Lecturer in Mathematical Physics and Mechanics at the University of Florence. At this point Fermi was trying to maximise his chances of an academic career so he published a large number of papers. He was disappointed to lose out to Giovanni Giorgi in the competition for the chair of mathematical physics at the University of Cagliari in Sardinia. It is worth noting that both Levi-Civita and Volterra supported Fermi. Perhaps it was good that Fermi lost for in 1926 another competition was announced, this time for the chair of theoretical physics at the University of Rome. This time, despite being very young for such a position, Fermi was appointed by the committee which recognised the exceptional quality of his scientific work.

At Rome Fermi began to built up the physics institute, which was surprisingly small when he arrived. Fermi married Laura Capon on 19 July 1928 they had one daughter Nella born 31 January 1931 and one son Giulio born on 16 February 1936 . In 1929 he was elected to the Accademia dei Lincei. Well this is not quite accurate since he Mussolini appointed him to the Academy without an election. Certainly he deserved the honour on academic grounds but one should not assume that his appointment by Mussolini meant that Fermi supported fascism. Perhaps it is more likely that because Fermi was pretty non-political, Mussolini felt that at least he was not appointing an political opponent. The Academy appointment provided Fermi with a substantially additional salary. He made his first visit to the United States in 1930 when he visited the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He had interesting discussions with George Uhlenbeck, who had moved there from Holland, and Ehrenfest joined them over the summer. Fermi gave lectures on quantum theory.

In 1934 Fermi carried out his most important work on the artificial radioactivity produced by neutrons. He published this in Radioattività indotta dal bombardamento di neutron Ⓣ (1934) and in further papers Artificial radioactivity produced by neutron bombardment (1934 , 1935) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London and On the absorption and diffusion of slow neutrons (1936) . This work led to the discovery of nuclear fission and experimentalists were able to use his results to create new elements. Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1938 . The citation states that the award is:-

Another important paper, published by Fermi in 1935 , was Sulla quantizzazione del gas perfetto monoatomico. In this paper he presented Fermi statistics, giving a statistical model of the atom and nucleus.

In the summer of 1938 Mussolini suddenly followed Hitler in Germany in starting a campaign against Jews. Fermi was not Jewish but his wife was and, although his two children were Roman Catholics, the family's situation became uncomfortable. Fermi decided to write to universities in the United States looking for a position. He did this with complete secrecy for fear that he would be prevented if the authorities learnt of his intentions. He wrote letters to various universities and posted them all in different towns not to arouse suspicions. He received five offers and accepted the one from Columbia University. The award of the Nobel Prize proved a wonderful opportunity for the family to leave Italy and travel to the presentation ceremony in Stockholm, then go straight on to the United States. Amusingly, Fermi had to pass an arithmetic test before being granted a visa for the United States. He arrived with his family in New York on 2 January 1939 .

Fermi's work at Columbia University, in collaboration with other members of his team, soon showed possible applications of his research. George Pegram, professor of physics at Columbia, wrote to Admiral Hooper in the Navy Department on 16 March 1939 ( see for example [ 4 ] ) :-

It took a while for things to get moving on the uranium project but a decision to make a major effort was taken, by coincidence, the day before Pearl Harbour in December 1941 . The project was to be carried out at the University of Chicago with various groups, including Fermi's group at Columbia, being brought together there. This was not greatly to Fermi's liking for a number of reasons. First he was very happy at Columbia University, second it made him more of an administrator and less of a scientist, and thirdly once the United States was at war with Italy, Italians were classed as 'enemy aliens' and severe travel restrictions within America were imposed. However, the difficulties were overcome and by the summer of 1942 Fermi was in Chicago. On 2 December 1942 the team, headed by Fermi, achieved the first controlled release of nuclear energy - it is probably not an understatement to say that a new era had begun. In 1944 , Fermi became American citizen and in that year he began to take a full part in the Los Alamos project to build a bomb. He taught various courses at Los Alamos for the scientists taking part in the project.

After the war ended Fermi decided that he wanted to return to university life. He accepted the offer of a professorship at the University of Chicago in 1945 . Over the next few years he undertook research, becoming interested in the origin of cosmic rays and he also worked on pion-nucleon interaction trying to make progress on understanding strong interactions. He made many research visits such as Los Alamos, which he visited every year, the University of Washington (1947) , the University of California at Berkeley (1948) and the Brookhaven National Laboratory (1952) . He attended a high-energy physics conference in Como, Italy, in 1949 . This was his first trip back to Europe since he left over ten years before. During this trip he also lectured to the Accademia dei Lincei with Castelnuovo chairing the meeting.

In the summer of 1954 Fermi returned to Italy and gave a series of lectures in the Villa Monastero in Varenna on Lake Como. He then went on to a summer school near Chamonix in France. He tried to follow his usual energetic life style with walks in the mountains and playing sports. However, he was clearly suffering from health problems which doctors had failed to diagnose. Back in Chicago doctors diagnosed stomach cancer and an operation was carried out. He survived the operation and returned home. He had told his friends that he would write up his course on nuclear physics as his last service to science if he was spared long enough. He only managed to write an incomplete page of contents for the course. Eugene Wigner wrote:-


Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) was an Italian physicist and recipient of the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics.

In 1942, Fermi relocated to the Chicago Met Lab, where he built an experimental reactor pile under Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. Construction was completed on December 1 and the reactor went critical the next day. In August 1944, Fermi went to Los Alamos as an associate director and key consultant.

At the Hanford site in 1944, Fermi inserted the first uranium slug into the “B” pile reactor, just as he had for the first pile in the CP-1 reactor two years earlier. During the "B" reactor test, Fermi was in charge of directing operations. His meticulous calculations, completed on a slide rule, determined how much uranium needed to be added to the reactor measurements confirmed that his calculations were astoundingly accurate.

The start-up failed, however, when the reactor shut itself down. John Wheeler hypothesized that some unknown substance was forming during fission and absorbing the neutrons needed to sustain the reaction. Fermi immediately agreed with Wheeler’s explanation and began working with him to find the unknown poison. By comparing the half-life of different radioactive gases with the amount of time that the reactor failed Wheeler and Fermi were able to discover that the problem substance was xenon-135.

At Los Alamos, Fermi served as an associate director of the laboratory. After the Trinity test, Fermi remarked: “My first impression of the explosion was the very intense flash of light, and a sensation of heat on the parts of the body that were exposed. Although I did not directly look towards the object, I had the full impression that suddenly the countryside became brighter than in full daylight.”

Ever the inquiring scientist, Fermi took the opportunity to conduct an experiment of his own. Just as the blast hit, he dropped several pieces of paper. Having measured their displacement and making a quick mental calculation, Fermi declared: “That corresponds to the blast produced by ten thousand tons of TNT.”

Fermi advised the Interim Committee on target selection, recommending the bombs be used without warning against an industrial target.

In 1944, Fermi became American citizen, and at the end of the war he accepted a professorship at the University of Chicago's Institute for Nuclear Studies , a position which he held until his untimely death. There he turned his attention to high-energy physics, and led investigations into the pion-nucleon interaction. He also served on the Atomic Energy Commission's General Advisory Committee.

The Enrico Fermi Award, a prestigious science and technology honor given by the US government, bears his name.

Scientific Contributions

In 1938, Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his demonstrations of the existence of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation, and for his related discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons." His research on the bombardment of elements to produce fissionable isotopes was critical to the success of the Manhattan Project.

For more information about Fermi's scientific research and accomplishments, visit the Nobel Prize website.


Was Enrico Fermi Really the “Father of the Nuclear Age”?

Just over 75 years ago, physicist Enrico Fermi conducted a famous nuclear experiment beneath the University of Chicago’s football field on December 2, 1942. The experiment proved that chain reactions occur and could be used to release the energy of the uranium atom in a sustained way. It also cleared the way for the production of plutonium. A new book by David N. Schwartz, The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age, examines the scientist whose breakthrough 75 years ago this month changed the world.

As the son of Nobel Prize winning-physicist Melvin Schwartz, what made you want to write a biography of Fermi?

He was always a topic of conversation in my household. In 2013, my mom sent me a batch of papers from my father’s filing cabinet and one of them was an essay that a buddy of his had written about Fermi's years in Chicago. Oh, my heavens! What an amazing character. I said, "I'm going to go and pick up a biography of him." I checked out the library and the last biography of Enrico Fermi was in 1970. The world of physics really owes a huge amount to Fermi in a lot of different ways. So, I said, "Well, why not try writing a new biography that takes all of that into account."

What research did you do for the book?

My wife and I spent a month in Italy in the Fall of 2015 going through the University of Rome archives where Fermi taught for many years. We interviewed six or seven of his living students and colleagues – remarkable people who had amazing memories of their interactions with Fermi. We also went to the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, where I dug through a lot of material. I looked at his FBI file and his security background clearance files. 

The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age

Based on new archival material and exclusive interviews, The Last Man Who Knew Everything lays bare the enigmatic life of a colossus of twentieth century physics.

Why did he go on to work on nuclear weapons?

When the news came from Germany in January 1939 that the uranium atom had been split, physicists began to worry that a bomb could be made out of this. Then, at the end of the summer of 1939, the German physicist Werner Heisenberg came to visit. Fermi tried to persuade him to defect to the United States because, he said, “If you go back to Germany, you’ll be required to work on a nuclear weapon for the Nazis and that would be terrible.” Heisenberg said, “I owe my patriotic duty to my country. I’m not going to defect to the United States.” That really shook Fermi up and he decided to move ahead, because if the Germans beat the Americans to this, it would be an absolute disaster.

Fermi was in Los Alamos when he overheard that the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. How did he react to this news?

There's nothing recorded. His wife's reaction was probably not surprising. She was pleased that the war was over, proud of the role that her husband played, but also very saddened by the destruction and the threat that this kind of weapon would pose for future generations.

What impact did his role in nuclear weapons have on his inner life?

He never spoke about it. Never wrote about it. We don’t know what he thought about it. But after 1951, he never again worked for the government.

David N. Schwartz (Ike Edeani)

Do you think him being known as “the father of the nuclear age” is apropos given his contributions?

If you think the nuclear age began with the first sustained chain reaction, then he is the father of the nuclear age. There's no question about that. Is he the father of nuclear weapons? I think there are a lot of people who bear responsibility for that. J. Robert Oppenheimer, certainly, and Arthur Compton and Ernest Lawrence's contribution to the Manhattan Project [the U.S. government research project that produced the first atomic bombs] is immense. Lawrence invented the main processes for uranium enrichment. The project just simply wouldn't have happened without Oppenheimer. The nuclear age is a broader concept than just simply the nuclear bomb. The nuclear age is, in my view, the moment when man was able to master the process of releasing energy from the nucleus of the atom. Fermi was certainly the father of that.

Why do you say Fermi was “the last man who knew everything”?

He contributed to virtually every field of physics, from quantum physics to particle physics, from condensed matter physics to astrophysics. He even did geophysics! Because physics has since become so specialized, he was really the last man who could see all of physics as an integrated whole.

What was he like?

Fermi had an incredibly sunny personality and a great sense of humor. People who knew him fell in love with him. After he died, colleagues created an audio record called “To Fermi With Love.” You just don’t see that with other scientists.

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This article is a selection from the December issue of Smithsonian magazine


Enrico Fermi

Under the west stand of the University of Chicago’s squash courts in Stagg Field, sits a plaque. It reads: “On December 2, 1942, man achieved here the first self-sustaining chain reaction and thereby initiated the controlled release of nuclear energy.” How did the squash courts at the University of Chicago became the site of the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction? The story begins in Italy in 1915.

In Rome that year a 14 year old boy, grieving the death of his older brother, sought distraction in books. Roaming the Campo de Fiori he happened upon two antique volumes of elementary physics. Our world was never to be the same. The boy was Enrico Fermi, and he would become the man who in 1942 performed the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction at the University of Chicago’s squash courts.

Fermi’s interest in physics was intense. At 19, he entered the University of Pisa, where, by some accounts, he shortly began instructing his teachers. At the tender age of 25, he became a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Rome. In 1934, Fermi almost discovered nuclear fission—the process that was used in the first atomic bomb—while conducting experiments in the radioactive transformations that resulted when various elements were repeatedly bombarded with neutrons. However, Fermi missed this opportunity because the sheet of foil he used to cover his uranium sample, which would have created fission, was too thick. It blocked the fission fragments from being recorded and went unnoticed. Though Fermi failed to discover fission, he did discover that passing neutrons through a light-element “moderator,” such as paraffin, slowed them down and in turn, increased their effectiveness. This discovery was instrumental in generating the heat needed by a nuclear reactor to generate electricity. In 1938 Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work.

Fermi traveled from Italy to Sweden to obtain his Nobel medal and never returned home. Italy’s fascist and anti-Semitic climate increasingly disturbed him. Like many European scientists of the period he left Europe and settled in the United States, taking employment at the University of Chicago. Others at the university were working on the atomic bomb. Fermi’s task was to find a way to control the chain reaction that resulted from fission. His answer was to create a nuclear reactor, which Fermi, whose English was still poor, called simply a “pile,” so that, theoretically, he could insert a neutron-absorbing material into the midst of the fission process to control its speed.

In December 1942 Fermi and his team were prepared to test their reactor. Due to space considerations, the “pile” was set up in the university’s squash court. The test did not occur without some concern. Up to that very moment Fermi’s notions about controlling fission were based entirely on theory, not practice. If he was wrong, Chicago could be blown away. The test began. At first, just a couple of rods were removed. Gradually, Fermi pulled more. Finally, it was apparent—Fermi and his team had created a self-sustaining nuclear reaction—the first controlled flow of energy from a source other than the sun. A coded message told the government of this success: “The Italian navigator has just landed in the new world.”


Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi, referred to by many as the Father or Architect of the Nuclear Bomb, was born on September 29, 1901 in Rome, Italy. Enrico’s parents were Alberto and Ida de Gattis Fermi and he had two siblings.

Enrico was a very curious and smart child whose native intelligence allowed him to surpass his peers in many endeavors. He also had a friendly demeanor and a funny, quick wit.

Enrico’s Mother was a major influence on Enrico. She was a very intelligent person who encouraged her children to excel at whatever tasks they may have. She was a gifted teacher and therefore had the talent and experience to guide Enrico into areas of interest and to gently push him to absorb the knowledge necessary to learn and succeed.

It is believed that Enrico became interested in physics and other science subjects upon the death of his beloved brother Giulio, who died when Enrico was only 14. To help him out of his deep depression as a result of his brother’s death, Enrico’s parents gave him many books and encouraged him to read and study.

Enrico quickly became totally fascinated with physics. He read as many books as he could find on the subject and even designed and completed his own experiments for fun. Sensing his escape from depression, his parents continually encouraged him to study more and expand his interest in physics and other related sciences.

Enrico’s intense interest and hard work in learning physics and other sciences paid off handsomely when we was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Scoula Normale Superiore University in Pisa, Italy. Enrico’s knowledge and dedication to his studies allowed him to advance rapidly through his schooling. He graduated with honors in 1922 and went on to earn a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1923. He also gained the opportunity to meet and work with several prestigious scientists such as the famous professor Max Born of Germany.

Fermi married Laura Capon of a highly respected Roman Jewish family in 1928. They raised a son, Guilio and a daughter, Nella. Their family was happy, loving and close.

Physics Career Blossoms

Fermi quickly became a noted and respected physics scientist which allowed him to grow his knowledge base even further and expand his learning to many related areas. He became the theoretical physics professor at the University of Rome, a highly esteemed position in 1927.

The incredible and unique accomplishments Fermi performed in physics studies and experimentation were done both theoretically and scientifically a unique accomplishment in those days as most science experimentation was specialized in one manner or the other.

Fermi’s most critical work began in the early 1930s. He developed the theory of what is called beta decay. Fermi postulated that new neutrons decaying to a proton unleashes an electron and a particle which he named neutrino.

Fermi and his associates then proceeded to study the neutron and its “affiliates” intensely to understand the ramifications of slowing down the neutrons and bombarding them with other elements.

They discovered that such experimentation produced a strange new entity and process that opened the door to understanding how to split the atom and discovering how nuclear transformation occurs in almost every element.This work led to nuclear fission and how to produce new elements that were not even part of the traditional Periodic Table, known to all scientists.

Fermi’s work and dedication earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1938. His award was “for his discovery of new radioactive elements produced by neutron radiation and for the discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons”.

Moving to the United States and developing the Atom Bomb

While Fermi was experiencing phenomenal success, Europe was descending into darkness.

Fascist Italy under Mussolini instituted anti-Jewish laws and began tightening his dictatorship power over the country. Traveling to Sweden to accept his Nobel Prize provided Fermi and his family with a great opportunity to leave Italy and escape to the United States.

Fermi quickly received a job as the Professor of Physics at New York Columbia University. He aggressively went to work and soon discovered that by using uranium neutrons emitted to fissioning uranium, other uranium atoms split, setting off a chain reaction that released enormous amounts of energy.

Nuclear fission was becoming recognized by scientists worldwide as a possible means of helping design and build a destructive energy source to be used as a “super bomb”. The major countries at war all worked feverishly to develop a potential bomb to help them win the World War underway at this time.

Fermi was asked by the U.S. Government to help design and build a bomb that could potentially be used to help win the war. Urgency was paramount as it was known that Germany and Japan were secretly trying to develop a super bomb to use against America and her allies.

Fermi joined an elite team of scientists as part of the Manhattan Project. Fermi moved to Chicago and began plans for building this new weapon at the University of Chicago. He supervised the team’s first step in designing and building an “atomic pile”, which was a code word for the assembly of a nuclear reactor.

After days and weeks of hard work on December 2, 1942, the Manhattan Project team achieved history’s first self-sustaining chain reaction which allowed for the controlled release of nuclear energy.

The development of the world’s first nuclear bomb continued onward at a feverish pace by Fermi and his team. Finally, on July 16, 1945, the historical Manhattan Project successfully ended with the successful explosion of the first atom bomb in the military testing area near Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The successful development of the atom bomb allowed for the United States to finally and convincingly end the devastating war with Japan by dropping the atom bomb on Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With tens of thousands of Japanese killed and injured by the bombings, Japan agreed to unconditional surrender.

Final Years and Special Honors

After the War, Fermi joined the faculty of the University of Chicago and continued his work with atoms, concentrating on the particles that exist in the atom’s nucleus. He lead and managed a team at the University that designed the synchrocyclotron at the time, the most powerful atom smasher in the world.

During this time, the University of Chicago formed the Institute for Nuclear Studies to honor Fermi and his fellow scientists and to continue the overall commitment by the University and the brilliant scientists to the peaceful study and advancement of nuclear energy. This institute is now named The Enrico Fermi Institute.

Fermi is recognized as one of history’s most brilliant scientists, especially in the area of high energy and nuclear physics. In 1969 the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission built a new laboratory in suburban Chicago. To honor Fermi, the laboratory was/is named the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. It is also known as FermiLab.

Enrico Fermi, Nobel Prize recipient and architect of the nuclear age, died on November 28, 1954 at the age of 53. He suffered incurable stomach cancer and spent his remaining months in his home in Chicago prior to his death. The scientific community and the Nation mourned the passing of this historic man.


Relationships

Family

Advisors & Collaborators

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago, "The Beta-spectra of Cesium-137, Yttrium-91, Chlorine-147, Ruthenium-106, Samarium-151, Phosophorous-32, and Thulium-170" and both employed at Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Advised by Fermi at University of Rome.

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago and both employed at University of Chicago, Columbia University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Manhattan Project, and Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Advised post-doctorally by Fermi at University of Rome and both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Post-doc advisor at University of Gottingen.

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago, "Diffraction of slow neutrons in liquids."

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago, "Elastic Scattering of High-Energy Nucleons by Deuterons."

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago.

Post-doc advisor at Leiden University.

Advised by Fermi at University of Rome.

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago, "An Experimental Investigation of the Beta-Gamma Angular Correlation in Beta Decay," and both employed at University of Chicago, Institute for Nuclear Studies.

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago on the interaction of high energy neutrons with heavy nuclei. Both employed at University of Chicago.

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago, "Hydrogen content and energy-productive mechanism of white dwarfs."

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago on "Production of Charged Pions from Hydrogen and Carbon and Production of Pions in Nucleaon-nucleon Collision at Cyclotron Energies," and both employed at University of Chicago, Institute for Nuclear Studies.

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago.

Advised by Fermi at University of Rome and both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago, "On the range of electrons in meson decay."

Advised by Fermi at University of Chicago while a researcher for the Manhattan Project

Colleagues

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at University of Chicago, Institute for Nuclear Studies.

Both employed at the Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project and Project Alberta, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project and Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project and Project Alberta, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Columbia University.

Both employed on Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed on Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Both employed on Project Trinity, Manhattan Project).

Worked together on the National Academy of Sciences Committee to Evaluate Use of Atomic Energy in War.

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Critchfield, Charles Louis, 1910-

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Columbia University.

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at the Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Columbia University.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Foote, Frank G. (Frank Gale), 1906-

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Froman, Darol K. (Darol Kenneth), 1906-1997

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Garner, Clifford S. (Clifford Symes), 1912-

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at University of Chicago, Institute for Nuclear Studies.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed on Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Henderson, Robert W. (Robert Wesley), 1914-

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Hirschfelder, Joseph Oakland, 1911-

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project and Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Hoffman, Joseph G. (Joseph Gilbert), 1909-

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed on Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Kennedy, Joseph W. (Joseph William), 1917-1957

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed on Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project) and Project Trinity (Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Columbia University.

Both employed at Columbia University.

Leet, L. Don (Lewis Don), 1901-1974

Both employed on Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Mack, Julian Ellis, 1903-1966

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project and Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project, Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project, and Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Columbia University.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed on Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Project Alberta, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Nelson, Eldred C. (Eldred Carlyle), 1917-

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Parratt, Lyman G. (Lyman George)

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Parsons, William Sterling, 1901-1953

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project and Project Alberta (Manhattan Project).

Both employed at Columbia University Pegram helped bring Fermi to the school.

Peierls, Rudolf E. (Rudolf Ernst), 1907-1995

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Penney, William George Penney, Baron, 1909-1991

Both employed on Project Trinity, Manhattan Project and Project Alberta, Manhattan Project.

Placzek, G. (George), 1905-1955

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Potratz, Herbert A. (Herbert August)

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Columbia University.

Both employed at Columbia University, Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project, and Project Alberta, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project and Project Alberta, Manhattan Project.

Seybolt, A. U. (Alan Upson), 1910-1984

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Shapiro, Maurice M. (Maurice Mandel), 1915-

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Smith, Cyril Stanley, 1903-1992

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Columbia University and the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Columbia University, and Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Columbia University and University of Chicago, Institute for Nuclear Studies.

Both employed on Project Trinity, Manhattan Project and Project Alberta, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project and Project Trinity, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Both employed at Columbia University.

Both employed at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, Manhattan Project and Argonne Laboratory, Manhattan Project.

Additional

Armstrong, Edwin H. (Edwin Howard), 1890-1954

Casimir, H. B. G. (Hendrik Brugt Gerhard), 1909-2000

Compton, Betty Charity McCloskey, 1916-

Evans, Robley Dunglison, 1907-

Glasoe, G. N. (G. Norris), 1902-1987

Greenewalt, Crawford H., 1902-1993

Grosse, Aristid von, 1905-1985

Havens, William W. (William Westerfield), 1920-2004

Inglis, David Rittenhouse, 1905-1995

Kraus, John Daniel, 1910-2004

Langer, Lawrence Marvin, 1913-2000

Migdal, A. B. (Arkadii Beinusovich), 1911-1991

Moller, C. (Christian), 1904-1980

Pollard, William G. (William Grosvenor), 1911-1989

Richards, Hugh T. (Hugh Taylor), 1918-

Rosenfeld, L. (Leon), 1904-1974


J. Ernest Wilkins and Other Black Scientists

J. Ernest Wilkins Jr., who received a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago as a 19-year-old in 1942, c. 2007.

In 1944, a 21-year-oldꂯrican American mathematician named਎rnest Wilkins joined the team at the Metallurgical Laboratory. A child prodigy who had entered the University of Chicago at the age of 13, Wilkins earned his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in six years�oming, at the time, one of the one half of 1 percent of Black men in America with Ph.Ds. Yet after graduation he received no job offers from any major research institutions he taught at the Tuskegee Institute before being recruited to work on the Manhattan Project.

At the Metallurgical Laboratory, Wilkins researched neutron energy, reactor physics and engineering with two prominent European-born scientists, Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard. Together they did groundbreaking work in the movement of subatomic particles. But when his team was transferred in 1944 to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a Manhattan Project site where the X-10 Graphite Reactor was being built, Wilkins was left behind because he was Black. Edward Teller, a scientist at the Columbia University complex, wrote to the War Research department in an attempt to recruit him to the work in New York. "He is a colored man and since Wigner&aposs group is moving to (Oak Ridge) it is not possible for him to continue work with that group. I think that it might be a good idea to secure his services for our work," Teller said. He did not go to New York.

Black scientists at the Metallurgical Lab and Columbia University included, among others: Edwin R. Russell, a research chemist focused on isolating and extracting plutonium-239 from uranium Moddie Taylor, a chemist who analyzed the chemical properties of rare earth metals Ralph Gardner-Chavis, a chemist who, along with Wilkins, worked closely with Enrico Fermi George Warren Reed, who researched fission yields of uranium and thorium Lloyd Quarterman, a chemist who worked on਍istilling Uranium-235 the Harvard-educated brothers Lawrence and William Knox, chemists who researched the effects of the bomb and separation of the uranium isotope, respectively chemists Harold Delaney and Benjamin Scott and physicist Jasper Jeffries.


Slow neutrons

In the late 1920s Fermi came up with a source of neutrons with which to experiment and determine whether neutrons could cause radioactivity (a process by which the atoms of an element give off particles of matter and harmful rays of energy). Fermi constructed a machine similar to a Geiger counter (a device for measuring radioactivity) and started bombarding different elements with neutrons. He had no success until he detected a weak radioactivity while subjecting fluorium to the treatment. This key date was March 21, 1934. By summer 1934 Fermi and his coworkers had tested many substances and detected a slight radioactivity in some.

Fermi and his team then found that the level of radioactivity created in a substance was increased if a filter made of paraffin (a waxy substance) was placed in the path of the neutrons bombarding the substance. Fermi's idea was that in passing through the paraffin (a compound containing a large amount of hydrogen), the speed of the neutrons was reduced by contact with the hydrogen atoms, and these very slow neutrons caused a much higher radioactivity in substances than fast neutrons did. Slow neutrons produce one kind of reaction, fast neutrons another. The discovery of the properties of slow neutrons was the key discovery in neutron physics.

By 1937 Fermi's wife and their children became concerned by the changing political


Fermi's Legacy

Many awards, institutions, and concepts are named after Fermi, including the Fermilab in Illinois, the Enrico Fermi Award given by the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Fermi is also only one of 16 scientists who have an element named after them. It is called fermium (Fm).

Nuclear reactors have provided humanity with reliable, and relatively safe and clean energy for close to eight decades.

Nuclear fission is one of the most significant discoveries in human history. Nuclear reactors have provided humanity with reliable, and relatively safe and clean energy for close to eight decades. Accidents have been rare and, with the exception of Chernobyl, manageable in terms of their negative impact on humans and the environment.

Today, nuclear power remains the only reliable source of energy that emits zero carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and can be scaled to meet the growing needs of human civilization. Nuclear power has improved hundreds of millions of lives and is likely to continue to do so for decades to come. For these reasons, Enrico Fermi is our 35th Hero of Progress.


Watch the video: Enrico Fermi: Godfather of the Atomic Bomb


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