Enrico Fermi (1901-1954)


Enrico Fermi was born in Rome in 1901 and died of cancer in 1954. It was one of the few physicists of the modern era to combine theory with experience.

Fermi made his Ph.D. thesis in Pisa. After some years in Germany, returned to the University of Rome, where, in 1926, started to study statistical mechanics of particles that obey the Pauli exclusion principle, such as electrons. The result is the so called Fermi-Dirac statistics, since Dirac obtained the same conclusions independently. In 1933, Fermi introduced the concept of weak interaction that, along with the recently postulated neutrino, was used in the theory of the beta decay. Along with a group of co-workers, Fermi began a series of experiences with the purpose of producing artificial radioactive nuclei, by bombarding several elements with neutrons. Some of his results suggested the formation of transuranian elements. In fact, these observations, later confirmed by Hahn, were the evidence for nuclear fission. In 1938, Fermi received the Nobel Prize of Physics for this work.

After that, he went to the USA, where he participated in the Manhattan project. Fermi directed the project of constructing of the first nuclear reactor in the University of Chicago. After the war, Fermi devoted his tine to particle physics, giving important contributions.

The element with atomic number 100, discovered one year after his death, received the name of Fermium, in his honor.