Enrico Fermi

Enrico Fermi (ĕnrē´kō fĕr´mē), 1901–54, American physicist, b. Italy. He studied at Pisa, Göttingen, and Leiden, and taught physics at the universities of Florence and Rome. He contributed to the early theory of beta decay and the neutrino and to quantum statistics. For his experiments with neutrons he was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics. Fermi's wife, Laura, was Jewish, and the family did not return to Fascist Italy after the journey to Stockholm to receive the Nobel award, but continued on to the United States. Fermi was professor of physics at Columbia (1939–45) and at the Univ. of Chicago (1946–54). He created the first self-sustaining chain reaction in uranium at Chicago in 1942 and worked on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. Later he contributed to the development of the hydrogen bomb and served on the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission, which named him to receive its first special award ($25,000) shortly before his death. Fermi was outstanding as an experimenter, theorist, and teacher. He wrote Elementary Particles (1951). In 1954 the chemical element fermium of atomic number 100 was named for him. Publication of his Collected Papers (ed. by Edoardo Amaldi et al.) was begun in 1962.

See L. Fermi, Atoms in the Family (1954, repr. 1988); biographies by E. Segrè (1970), G. Segrè and B. Hoerlin (2016), and D. N. Schwartz (2017).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Enrico Fermi: Selected full-text books and articles

The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear Explosion, July 16, 1945 By Ferenc Morton Szasz University of New Mexico Press, 1984
Librarian's tip: "Enrico Fermi" begins on p. 19
Nuclear America: Military and Civilian Nuclear Power in the United States, 1940-1980 By Gerard H. Clarfield; William M. Wiecek Harper & Row, 1984
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Enrico Fermi begins on p. 16
The American Atom: A Documentary History of Nuclear Policies from the Discovery of Fission to the Present, 1939-1984 By Robert C. Williams; Philip L. Cantelon University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984
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