Fermi, Enrico 1901 – 1954 (费米·恩里科：意大利物理学家, 原子弹发明人之一, 1939年移居美国, 曾获1938年诺贝尔物理学奖)
Physicist, born on September 29, 1901 in Rome,Italy. The son of a civil servant father and aschoolteacher mother, Fermi studied at theUniversity of Pisa from 1918 to 1922, where hisprecocity led him to often teach his teachers.
In 1926, while a lecturer at the University ofFlorence, he developed a new form of statisticalmechanics to explain the theoretical behavior of atomic particles. Fermi also developed thetheory of beta decay, which introduced the last of the four basic forces known to nature, thenuclear “weak force.? At the University of Rome, he and his colleagues unwittingly split thenuclei of uranium atoms by bombarding them with neutrons, thus producing the first artificialradioactive substances. Fermi thought that the atoms were not splitting, but emitting a newelement. For this breakthrough, Fermi received the 1938 Nobel Prize in physics. The sameexperiment yielded Fermi’s most notable discovery: that slowing neutrons by passing themthrough a light-element “moderator?increased their effectiveness. This “slowing?process laterallowed for the release of nuclear energy in a reactor.
Fearing for the safety of his Jewish wife because of Mussolinis anti-Semitic legislation, Fermiwent directly from the Nobel Prize presentation in Stockholm to Columbia University in NewYork City. In 1939, he and Leo Szilard designed the first nuclear reactor, which Fermieuphemistically called a “nuclear pile.? They moved this work to the University of Chicago in1942, joining the Manhattan Project, the American-led effort to build the first atomic bomb.
On December 2, 1942, on the squash courts of the University of Chicago, Fermi presided overwhat the site’s commemorative plaque now calls “the first self-sustaining chain reaction andthereby initiated the controlled release of nuclear energy."?The pile ran for twenty-eightminutes and produced 200 watts of power, paving the way for the 1945 invention of theplutonium-ba
Fermi moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1944 and attended the detonation of the firstatomic bomb at the Trinity Test Site in the New Mexican desert. He estimated the force of theexplosion by simply dropping scraps of paper in the wind and comparing their displacementbefore and during the blast. Despite his immeasurable contribution to the atomic bomb, Fermiopposed the development of the more powerful hydrogen bomb, calling it a “weapon which inits practical effect is almost one of genocide.? Fermi died of stomach cancer on November 28, 1954, in Chicago.