Fermi, Enrico

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b. 29 September 1901 Rome, Italy
d. 28 November 1954 Chicago, USA
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Italian nuclear physicist.
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Fermi was one of the most versatile of twentieth-century physicists, one of the few to excel in both theory and experiment. His greatest theoretical achievements lay in the field of statistics and his theory of beta decay. His statistics, parallel to but independent of Dirac, were the key to the modern theory of metals and the statistical modds of the atomic nucleus. On the experimental side, his most notable discoveries were artificial radioactivity produced by neutron bombardment and the realization of a controlled nuclear chain reaction, in the world's first nuclear reactor.
Fermi received a conventional education with a chemical bias, but reached proficiency in mathematics and physics largely through his own reading. He studied at Pisa University, where he taught himself modern physics and then travelled to extend his knowledge, spending time with Max Born at Göttingen. On his return to Italy, he secured posts in Florence and, in 1927, in Rome, where he obtained the first Italian Chair in Theoretical Physics, a subject in which Italy had so far lagged behind. He helped to bring about a rebirth of physics in Italy and devoted himself to the application of statistics to his model of the atom. For this work, Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1938, but in December of that year, finding the Fascist regime uncongenial, he transferred to the USA and Columbia University. The news that nuclear fission had been achieved broke shortly before the Second World War erupted and it stimulated Fermi to consider this a way of generating secondary nuclear emission and the initiation of chain reactions. His experiments in this direction led first to the discovery of slow neutrons.
Fermi's work assumed a more practical aspect when he was invited to join the Manhattan Project for the construction of the first atomic bomb. His small-scale work at Columbia became large-scale at Chicago University. This culminated on 2 December 1942 when the first controlled nuclear reaction took place at Stagg Field, Chicago, an historic event indeed. Later, Fermi spent most of the period from September 1944 to early 1945 at Los Alamos, New Mexico, taking part in the preparations for the first test explosion of the atomic bomb on 16 July 1945. President Truman invited Fermi to serve on his Committee to advise him on the use of the bomb. Then Chicago University established an Institute for Nuclear Studies and offered Fermi a professorship, which he took up early in 1946, spending the rest of his relatively short life there.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Nobel Prize for Physics 1938.
Bibliography
1962–5, Collected Papers, ed. E.Segrè et al., 2 vols, Chicago (includes a biographical introduction and bibliography).
Further Reading
L.Fermi, 1954, Atoms in the Family, Chicago (a personal account by his wife).
E.Segrè, 1970, Enrico Fermi, Physicist, Chicago (deals with the more scientific aspects of his life).
LRD

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Fermi, Enrico — born Sept. 29, 1901, Rome, Italy died Nov. 28, 1954, Chicago, Ill., U.S. Italian born U.S. physicist. As a professor at the University of Rome, he began the work, later fully developed by P.A.M. Dirac, that led to Fermi Dirac statistics. He… …   Universalium

  • Fermi, Enrico — (1901–1954)    One of the finest theoretical physicists of the last century, Enrico Fermi was one of the fathers of the atomic bomb and a pioneer in the field of nuclear fission. Fermi was born in Rome and was educated at the universities of Pisa …   Historical Dictionary of modern Italy

  • Fermi , Enrico — (1901–1954) Italian–American physicist Fermi was without doubt the greatest Italian scientist since Galileo and in the period 1925–50 was one of the most creative physicists in the world. Unusually in an age of ever growing specialization he… …   Scientists

  • Fermi, Enrico — ► (1901 54) Físico italiano. Descubridor del neutrino y de la posibilidad de producir elementos radiactivos por el bombardeo con neutrones (experimento y efecto de Fermi). Fue premio Nobel de Física en 1938. Posteriormente colaboró en la… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Fermi,Enrico — Fer·mi (fĕrʹmē), Enrico. 1901 1954. Italian born American physicist. He won a 1938 Nobel Prize for his work on artificial radioactivity caused by neutron bombardment. In 1942, at the University of Chicago, he produced the first controlled nuclear …   Universalium

  • Fermi, Enrico — (1901 1954). Físico nacido en Italia, uno de los principales arquitectos de la Era Atómica. En 1934 bombardeó Uranio con neutrones de baja velocidad creando, sin saberlo, el elemento 94. Cuatro años más tarde obtuvo el premio Nobel de Física por… …   Diccionario ecologico

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  • Fermi (disambiguation) — Enrico Fermi was an Italian physicist, all of the following is named after him.In physics: * Fermi, a unit of length in particle physics equivalent to the femtometre * Fermi s interaction * Fermi constant, constant that gives the strength of… …   Wikipedia

  • Enrico Persico — (August 9, 1900 – June 17 1969) is an Italian physicist notable for propagating the field of quantum mechanics in Italy. He was a professor at the University of Turin and is also notable as the doctoral advisor of Ugo Fano.CareerPersico was born… …   Wikipedia

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