Enrico Fermi was the foremost Italian physicist of the 20th century. Like many of his colleagues, he left Europe to avoid political dictatorship. 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. His father was a chief inspector of the Italian Ministry of Communications. At an early age, he showed talent for mathematics. He spent four years at the University of Pisa, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1922. 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. Realizing the potential of atomic fission, Fermi became deeply involved in the research that led to the development of the atomic bomb. His best known contribution was the experiment at the University of Chicago that led to the first sustained atomic reaction in December 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. He remained there until his untimely death in 1954. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, 40 miles west of Chicago, is named after Enrico Fermi.
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes by Enrico Fermi.
Regarding Hydrogen Bomb
Such a weapon goes far beyond any military objective and enters the range of very great natural catastrophes. By its very nature it cannot be confined to a military objective but becomes a weapon which in practical effect is almost one of genocide. It is clear that the use of such a weapon cannot be justified on any ethical ground which gives a human being a certain individuality and dignity even if he happens to be a resident of an enemy country... The fact that no limits exist to the destructiveness of this weapon makes its very existence and the knowledge of its construction a danger to humanity as a whole. It is necessarily an evil thing considered in any light.
Minority addendum to report to the Atomic Energy Commission, 1949
There are two possible outcomes: if the result confirms the hypothesis, then you've made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery.
Quotes regarding Enrico Fermi.
By Albert Einstein
Some recent work by E. Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration.
From a famous letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt which prompted government interest in the atomic bomb.
By J. Robert Oppenheimer
He was simply unable to let things be foggy. Since they always are, this kept him pretty active.
By Luis Alvarez
There is no democracy in physics. We can't say that some second-rate guy has as much right to opinion as Fermi.
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