Enrico Fermi

1901 – 1954   Physicist, Nobel Laureate, Builder of the First Atomic Reactor

Born in Italy, Fermi had a PhD in physics at the age of 20. He rapidly gained an international reputation for cutting-edge sub-atomic research and theory. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1938; instead of returning to Italy following the award ceremony, he fled to the USA to escape Fascist persecution of his Jewish wife. One year later, with WW2 looming, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to US President Roosevelt in which he described the theoretical possibility of an atomic bomb and warned that the Germans were probably already working on one. In the first sentence of that letter, Einstein cited the work done by Fermi. Convinced, Roosevelt launched the Manhattan Project that eventually produced the atomic bomb. Fermi had accepted a professorship at Columbia University in Chicago, where he built the first atomic reactor. On 2 December, 1942, Fermi initiated the first artificially-produced, self-sustaining nuclear reaction in history.

Adriano Lemmi Lodge, Rome


“It is no good to try to stop knowledge from going forward. Ignorance is never better than knowledge.”