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Fascinating facts about Enrico Fermi
inventor of nuclear reaction in 1942.

Enrico Fermi
Inventor: Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi photo courtesy The Enrico Fermi Institute
Criteria: First to invent. First practical.
Birth: September 29, 1901 in Rome, Italy
Death: November 28, 1954, in Chicago, Illinois.
Nationality: Italian
Enrico Fermi, Italian-American physicist and Nobel laureate, known for achieving the first controlled nuclear reaction.

Born in Rome on September 29, 1901, Fermi was educated at the University of Pisa and in some of the leading centers for theoretical physics in Europe. In 1926 he became professor of theoretical physics at the University of Rome. There he developed a new kind of statistics for explaining the behavior of electrons. He also developed a theory of beta decay and, from 1934 on, investigated the production of artificial radioactivity by bombarding elements with neutrons. For the latter work he was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in physics.

Rather than return to the political harassment of Fascist Italy (Fermi's wife was Jewish), Fermi and his family immigrated to the United States, where he became professor of physics at Columbia University. By this time Fermi was keenly aware of the significance of his experimental work in the effort to produce atomic energy. He created the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction in December 1942 at the University of Chicago and worked for the rest of World War II (1939-1945) at Los Alamos, New Mexico, on the atomic bomb. Later, he opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb on ethical grounds.

After the war, in 1946, Fermi became a professor of physics and the director of the new Institute of Nuclear Studies at the University of Chicago. As in his days at Rome, students from all over the world came to Chicago to study with him. His career was cut short by his untimely death from Cancer on November 28, 1954, in Chicago. The Enrico Fermi Award honoring his memory is given annually to the individual who has contributed most to the development, use, or control of atomic energy.


Nobel Prize Inventors   from The Great Idea Finder

Atoms in the Family : My Life With Enrico Fermi
Laura Fermi
/ Paperback / University of Chicago Press (1995)
She traces her husband's career from his childhood, when he taught himself physics, through his rise in the Italian university system concurrent with the rise of fascism, to his receipt of the Nobel Prize.
Notes on Quantum Mechanics : A Course Given by Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago
Enrico Fermi, Robert A. Schluter
/ Paperback  188 pages / University of Chicago Press (July 1995)
The lecture notes presented here in facsimile were prepared by Enrico Fermi for students taking his course at the University of Chicago in 1954. They are vivid examples of his unique ability to lecture simply and clearly on the most essential aspects of quantum mechanics.
Enrico Fermi
/ Paperback / Dover Pubns
No student of physics or chemistry should be without this clear, cogent examination of thermodynamics. As one of the top scientists of this century, one can consider Fermi's thermo text as science that's "straight from the horse's mouth."
Enrico Fermi: And the Revolutions of Modern Physics
by Dan Cooper / Hardcover: 144 pages / Oxford University Press (December 1998)
In 1938, at the age of 37, Enrico Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. That same year he emigrated from Italy to the United States and, in the course of his experiments, discovered nuclear fission a process which forms the basis of nuclear power and atomic bombs.

Nuclear Tech
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / 73436 / Less than $25.00
From the dawn of the nuclear age to a sneak peek at an ultra-modern fusion reactor, See how nuclear science has made a mark in fields as diverse as medicine and international security, meet the scientists who are developing the next generation of reactors, and ride along as spent uranium rods are transported from power plants to secure storage facilities.


Encarta Encyclopedia
From the Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia.
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Fermi was inducted in 1976 for his invention Neutronic Reactor Nuclear Fission Patent Number  2,708,656. Located at Inventure Place, the online home of creative minds.
The Enrico Fermi Institute
This site at the University of Chicago's Enrico Fermi Institute discusses Enrico Fermi and his experiments including the Manhattan project.

Enrico Fermi Biography
This site at the FermiLab discusses Enrico Fermi and his accomplishments.

The Most Important People of the Century
Enrico Fermi, was the last of the double-threat physicists: a genius at creating both esoteric theories and elegant experiments. Article by RICHARD RHODES.
The Enrico Fermi Award
The Enrico Fermi Award is a Presidential award—one of the oldest and most prestigious science and technology awards given by the U.S. Government.

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1938
The Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Fermi for his work on the artificial radioactivity produced by neutrons, and for nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons.


Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised October 9, 2006.

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