• 1901 September 29
    (b.) -
    1954 November 28


An Italian-born, naturalized American physicist particularly known for his work on the development of the first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, and for his contributions to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics, he was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity. He is widely regarded as one of the leading scientists of the 20th century, highly accomplished in both theory and experiment. Along with J. Robert Oppenheimer, he is frequently referred to as "the father of the atomic bomb". He also held several patents related to the use of nuclear power. He was born in Rome to Alberto Fermi, a Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Communications, and Ida de Gattis, an elementary school teacher who built her own pressure cooker. As a young boy, he shared his interests with his older brother, Giulio. They dismantled small engines and other parts. He was distraught, and immersed himself in scientific study to distract himself when his brother died unexpectedly of a throat abscess in 1915, According to his own account, each day he would walk in front of the hospital in which Giulio died until he inured to the pain. One of the first sources for his study of physics was a book he found at a local market, titled ?Elementorum physicae mathematica?e, written in Latin by Jesuit Father Andrea Caraffa, a professor at the Collegio Romano. The book covered subjects like mathematics, classical mechanics, astronomy, optics, and acoustics. Notes found in the book indicate that he studied it intensely. Later, he befriended another scientifically inclined student named Enrico Persico, and the two worked together on scientific projects such as building gyroscopes, and measuring the Earth's magnetic field. His interest in physics was further encouraged by Adolfo Amidei, a friend of his father, who gave him several books on physics and mathematics, which he read and assimilated quickly.
  • Date of Birth:

    1901 September 29
  • Date of Death:

    1954 November 28
  • Gender:

  • Noted For:

    Inventor of the FERMIAC, an analog computer that used the Monte Carlo Method to study neutron transport through fissionable materials
  • Category of Achievement:

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