Have you ever heard of
Enrico Fermi? My guess is you probably haven't. Well,
Enrico Fermi was the man who first controlled nuclear
fission, allowing the atomic bomb to be built.
Enrico Fermi was born
in Rome, Italy. Fermi's family was a farming family. In
1915, Enrico's brother, Guilio, died. The two boys were
very close. Fermi became depressed.
Like some other famous
inventors, Fermi was not a good student. However, when he
was in his teens, he began to study physics outside of
school. A friend of Enrico's father, Ingegner Alimidei,
began to see Enrico's gift for physics. He began to give
him problems, making them harder and harder. Soon,
Enrico, a now promising student, got a scholarship to
Reale Scuola Normale Superior.
Fermi discovered that
with all the problems he received, he was ahead of the
rest of the class. By the end of the school year, Fermi
was learning Einstein's, Theory of Relativity.
When Fermi reached the
age of twenty, he got a degree as Doctor of Physics. In
1926 Fermi settled down as full Professor of Physics at
University of Rome. He began to write papers about the
In Rome, Fermi joined
two of his friends, Emilio Segre and Franco Rasetti, and
developed a research and teaching group that was amazing.
While he was in this group, he invented
The three friends
worked very hard to create artificial radiation. They
tried many methods. Many of the elements produced
artificial radiation. After many experiments Fermi
discovered the 93rd element, Neptunium.
Fermi didn't realize
that he was actually witnessing nuclear fission. Every
time Fermi did an experiment, he put aluminum foil in
place. This kept him from noticing the nuclear fission.
Many scientists began using Fermi's experiment, but since
they put the foil in place, as Fermi did, they never knew
what they were doing. Finally two Swiss scientists forgot
to put the foil in place. They noticed something was
wrong and that led to the discovery of nuclear
Fermi's work on the
experiment led him to win the Nobel prize in 1938.
Because of World War II, Fermi moved to the U. S. on
January 2, 1939. He began to work at Columbia University.
He formed a partnership with Niels Bohr. Fermi had to
admit that the Germans were ahead in research on the
At first, the U.S.
government couldn't supply Fermi with the right materials
to continue his experiment. But in 1942, the government
decided to continue research on the atomic bomb and so he
was able to continue his experiments at the University of
While Fermi was
experimenting, he discovered another element, plutonium.
Finally, on December 2, 1942, in a secret laboratory
under the football field at the University of Chicago,
Fermi witnessed and controlled nuclear fission which led
to the creation of the atomic bomb.
On August 6, 1945, a
lone B-29 dropped a single atomic bomb on Hiroshima,
Japan. This single bomb brought a quick end to World War
II. An estimated 100,000 people died from the
For more information
on Fermi, go to the site Enrico
up to the top