104 Facts About Enrico Fermi


Enrico Fermi was an Italian and later naturalized American physicist and the creator of the world's first nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1.


Enrico Fermi has been called the "architect of the nuclear age" and the "architect of the atomic bomb".


Enrico Fermi was one of very few physicists to excel in both theoretical physics and experimental physics.


Enrico Fermi made significant contributions to the development of statistical mechanics, quantum theory, and nuclear and particle physics.


Enrico Fermi took up this idea, developing a model that incorporated the postulated particle, which he named the "neutrino".


Enrico Fermi left Italy in 1938 to escape new Italian racial laws that affected his Jewish wife, Laura Capon.


Enrico Fermi emigrated to the United States, where he worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.

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Enrico Fermi led the team at the University of Chicago that designed and built Chicago Pile-1, which went critical on 2 December 1942, demonstrating the first human-created, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.


Enrico Fermi was on hand when the X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, went critical in 1943, and when the B Reactor at the Hanford Site did so the next year.


Enrico Fermi was present at the Trinity test on 16 July 1945, where he used his Fermi method to estimate the bomb's yield.


Enrico Fermi was among the scientists who testified on Oppenheimer's behalf at the 1954 hearing that resulted in the denial of Oppenheimer's security clearance.


Enrico Fermi did important work in particle physics, especially related to pions and muons, and he speculated that cosmic rays arose when material was accelerated by magnetic fields in interstellar space.


Enrico Fermi tutored or directly influenced no fewer than eight young researchers who went on to win Nobel Prizes.


Enrico Fermi was born in Rome, Italy, on 29 September 1901.


Enrico Fermi was the third child of Alberto Fermi, a division head in the Ministry of Railways, and Ida de Gattis, an elementary school teacher.


At a local market in Campo de' Fiori Enrico Fermi found a physics book, the 900-page Elementorum physicae mathematicae.


In 1914, Enrico Fermi, who used to often meet with his father in front of the office after work, met a colleague of his father called Adolfo Amidei, who would walk part of the way home with Alberto.


Enrico Fermi had learned that Adolfo was interested in mathematics and physics and took the opportunity to ask Adolfo a question about geometry.


Adolfo understood that the young Enrico Fermi was referring to projective geometry and then proceeded to give him a book on the subject written by Theodor Reye.


Two months later, Enrico Fermi returned the book, having solved all the problems proposed at the end of the book, some of which Adolfo considered difficult.


Adolfo noted that Enrico Fermi had a very good memory and thus could return the books after having read them because he could remember their content very well.


Enrico Fermi graduated from high school in July 1918, having skipped the third year entirely.


At Amidei's urging, Enrico Fermi learned German to be able to read the many scientific papers that were published in that language at the time, and he applied to the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa.


At the Scuola Normale Superiore, Enrico Fermi played pranks with fellow student Franco Rasetti; the two became close friends and collaborators.


Enrico Fermi initially chose mathematics as his major, but soon switched to physics.

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Enrico Fermi remained largely self-taught, studying general relativity, quantum mechanics, and atomic physics.


In September 1920, Enrico Fermi was admitted to the Physics department.


Enrico Fermi addressed this the next year in a paper "Concerning a contradiction between electrodynamic and the relativistic theory of electromagnetic mass" in which he showed that the apparent contradiction was a consequence of relativity.


That year, Enrico Fermi submitted his article "On the phenomena occurring near a world line" to the Italian journal I Rendiconti dell'Accademia dei Lincei.


Enrico Fermi proved that on a world line close to the timeline, space behaves as if it were a Euclidean space.


Enrico Fermi submitted his thesis, "A theorem on probability and some of its applications", to the Scuola Normale Superiore in July 1922, and received his laurea at the unusually young age of 20.


Since Enrico Fermi was quite at home in the lab doing experimental work, this did not pose insurmountable problems for him.


In 1924, Enrico Fermi was initiated into the Masonic Lodge "Adriano Lemmi" of the Grand Orient of Italy.


Enrico Fermi then studied in Leiden with Paul Ehrenfest from September to December 1924 on a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation obtained through the intercession of the mathematician Vito Volterra.


From January 1925 to late 1926, Enrico Fermi taught mathematical physics and theoretical mechanics at the University of Florence, where he teamed up with Rasetti to conduct a series of experiments on the effects of magnetic fields on mercury vapor.


Enrico Fermi participated in seminars at the Sapienza University of Rome, giving lectures on quantum mechanics and solid state physics.


Enrico Fermi applied for a chair of mathematical physics at the University of Cagliari on Sardinia, but was narrowly passed over in favor of Giovanni Giorgi.


Enrico Fermi married Laura Capon, a science student at the university, on 19 July 1928.


On 18 March 1929, Enrico Fermi was appointed a member of the Royal Academy of Italy by Mussolini, and on 27 April he joined the Fascist Party.


Enrico Fermi later opposed Fascism when the 1938 racial laws were promulgated by Mussolini in order to bring Italian Fascism ideologically closer to German Nazism.


Enrico Fermi conducted public lectures and wrote popular articles for scientists and teachers in order to spread knowledge of the new physics as widely as possible.


Enrico Fermi took up this idea, which he developed in a tentative paper in 1933, and then a longer paper the next year that incorporated the postulated particle, which Enrico Fermi called a "neutrino".


Enrico Fermi decided to switch to experimental physics, using the neutron, which James Chadwick had discovered in 1932.


In March 1934, Enrico Fermi wanted to see if he could induce radioactivity with Rasetti's polonium-beryllium neutron source.


Enrico Fermi had the idea to resort to replacing the polonium-beryllium neutron source with a radon-beryllium one, which he created by filling a glass bulb with beryllium powder, evacuating the air, and then adding 50 mCi of radon gas, supplied by Giulio Cesare Trabacchi.

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Enrico Fermi knew that this source would emit gamma rays, but, on the basis of his theory, he believed that this would not affect the results of the experiment.


Enrico Fermi started by bombarding platinum, an element with a high atomic number that was readily available, without success.


Enrico Fermi turned to aluminium, which emitted an alpha particle and produced sodium, which then decayed into magnesium by beta particle emission.


Enrico Fermi tried lead, without success, and then fluorine in the form of calcium fluoride, which emitted an alpha particle and produced nitrogen, decaying into oxygen by beta particle emission.


Enrico Fermi rapidly reported the discovery of neutron-induced radioactivity in the Italian journal La Ricerca Scientifica on 25 March 1934.


The natural radioactivity of thorium and uranium made it hard to determine what was happening when these elements were bombarded with neutrons but, after correctly eliminating the presence of elements lighter than uranium but heavier than lead, Enrico Fermi concluded that they had created new elements, which he called hesperium and ausonium.


Enrico Fermi's suggestion was not taken seriously at the time because her team had not carried out any experiments with uranium or built the theoretical basis for this possibility.


Enrico Fermi remembered that Joliot-Curie and Chadwick had noted that paraffin wax was effective at slowing neutrons, so he decided to try that.


Enrico Fermi guessed that this was due to the hydrogen atoms in the paraffin.


Enrico Fermi concluded that collisions with hydrogen atoms slowed the neutrons.


Enrico Fermi realised that this induced more radioactivity because slow neutrons were more easily captured than fast ones.


Enrico Fermi developed a diffusion equation to describe this, which became known as the Fermi age equation.


In 1938, Enrico Fermi received the Nobel Prize in Physics at the age of 37 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".


Enrico Fermi was immediately offered positions at five universities, and accepted one at Columbia University, where he had already given summer lectures in 1936.


Enrico Fermi received the news that in December 1938, the German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann had detected the element barium after bombarding uranium with neutrons, which Lise Meitner and her nephew Otto Frisch correctly interpreted as the result of nuclear fission.


Enrico Fermi had dismissed the possibility of fission on the basis of his calculations, but he had not taken into account the binding energy that would appear when a nuclide with an odd number of neutrons absorbed an extra neutron.


Enrico Fermi added a footnote to this effect to his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.


On 25 January 1939, in the basement of Pupin Hall at Columbia, an experimental team including Enrico Fermi conducted the first nuclear fission experiment in the United States.


Enrico Fermi suggested, based on his work with neutrons, that the reaction could be achieved with uranium oxide blocks and graphite as a moderator instead of water.


Szilard, Anderson, and Enrico Fermi published a paper on "Neutron Production in Uranium".

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The Advisory Committee on Uranium provided money for Enrico Fermi to buy graphite, and he built a pile of graphite bricks on the seventh floor of the Pupin Hall laboratory.


Enrico Fermi decided to concentrate the plutonium work at the University of Chicago.


Enrico Fermi reluctantly moved, and his team became part of the new Metallurgical Laboratory there.


Enrico Fermi then persuaded Compton that he could build the reactor in the squash court under the stands of the University of Chicago's Stagg Field.


The shape of the pile was intended to be roughly spherical, but as work proceeded Enrico Fermi calculated that criticality could be achieved without finishing the entire pile as planned.


Enrico Fermi was reached at the President's office at Harvard University.


Enrico Fermi became an American citizen in July 1944, the earliest date the law allowed.


In September 1944, Enrico Fermi inserted the first uranium fuel slug into the B Reactor at the Hanford Site, the production reactor designed to breed plutonium in large quantities.


Enrico Fermi was recommended by colleague Emilio Segre to ask Chien-Shiung Wu, as she prepared a printed draft on this topic to be published by the Physical Review.


The scientists had originally considered this over-engineering a waste of time and money, but Enrico Fermi realized that if all 2,004 tubes were loaded, the reactor could reach the required power level and efficiently produce plutonium.


The background was fear that the German atomic bomb project was already at an advanced stage, and Enrico Fermi was skeptical at the time that an atomic bomb could be developed quickly enough.


In mid-1944, Oppenheimer persuaded Enrico Fermi to join his Project Y at Los Alamos, New Mexico.


Enrico Fermi observed the Trinity test on 16 July 1945 and conducted an experiment to estimate the bomb's yield by dropping strips of paper into the blast wave.


Enrico Fermi paced off the distance they were blown by the explosion, and calculated the yield as ten kilotons of TNT; the actual yield was about 18.6 kilotons.


Enrico Fermi did not believe that atomic bombs would deter nations from starting wars, nor did he think that the time was ripe for world government.


Enrico Fermi therefore did not join the Association of Los Alamos Scientists.


Enrico Fermi was elected a member of the US National Academy of Sciences in 1945.


Enrico Fermi served on the AEC General Advisory Committee, an influential scientific committee chaired by Robert Oppenheimer.


Nonetheless, Enrico Fermi continued to participate in work on the hydrogen bomb at Los Alamos as a consultant.


Enrico Fermi was among the scientists who testified on Oppenheimer's behalf at the Oppenheimer security hearing in 1954 that resulted in denial of Oppenheimer's security clearance.

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Enrico Fermi conducted important research in particle physics, especially related to pions and muons.


Enrico Fermi made the first predictions of pion-nucleon resonance, relying on statistical methods, since he reasoned that exact answers were not required when the theory was wrong anyway.


Enrico Fermi wrote a paper "On the Origin of Cosmic Radiation" in which he proposed that cosmic rays arose through material being accelerated by magnetic fields in interstellar space, which led to a difference of opinion with Teller.


Enrico Fermi examined the issues surrounding magnetic fields in the arms of a spiral galaxy.


Enrico Fermi mused about what is referred to as the "Fermi paradox": the contradiction between the presumed probability of the existence of extraterrestrial life and the fact that contact has not been made.


Toward the end of his life, Enrico Fermi questioned his faith in society at large to make wise choices about nuclear technology.


Enrico Fermi underwent what was called an "exploratory" operation in Billings Memorial Hospital in October 1954, after which he returned home.


Enrico Fermi suspected working near the nuclear pile involved great risk but he pressed on because the benefits outweighed the risks to his personal safety.


Enrico Fermi was extraordinarily vigorous and loved games and sport.


Enrico Fermi played tennis with considerable ferocity and when climbing mountains acted rather as a guide.


Enrico Fermi had very few interests outside physics and when he once heard me play on Teller's piano he confessed that his interest in music was restricted to simple tunes.


Enrico Fermi received numerous awards in recognition of his achievements, including the Matteucci Medal in 1926, the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938, the Hughes Medal in 1942, the Franklin Medal in 1947, and the Rumford Prize in 1953.


Enrico Fermi was awarded the Medal for Merit in 1946 for his contribution to the Manhattan Project.


Enrico Fermi was elected member of the American Philosophical Society in 1939 and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in 1950.


Enrico Fermi was widely regarded as an unusual case of a 20th-century physicist who excelled both theoretically and experimentally.


Enrico Fermi was known as an inspiring teacher and was noted for his attention to detail, simplicity, and careful preparation of his lectures.


Enrico Fermi was famous for getting quick and accurate answers to problems that would stump other people.


Enrico Fermi was fond of pointing out that when Alessandro Volta was working in his laboratory, Volta had no idea where the study of electricity would lead.


Enrico Fermi is generally remembered for his work on nuclear power and nuclear weapons, especially the creation of the first nuclear reactor, and the development of the first atomic and hydrogen bombs.