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Enrico Fermi

The Galileo of atomic energy who trained in Pisa

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Among the numerous figures who have contributed to make famous the name of the Scuola Normale of Pisa a special place undoubtedly belongs to Enrico Fermi. Born in Rome on September 29, 1901, he started studying physics from a very young age; finishing the Liceo Classico at 17 he presented himself at the examination for admission to the Scuola Normale Superiore. He passed the algebra exam with a mark of 8/10, geometry with 9+ and without a mark for the physics paper because of the difficulty that the examiners, who awarded him 10 on all the subjects in the oral exams, had in reading his writing. During the Pisa years Fermi worked on his mathematics under the direction of Luigi Bianchi while, for physics, he made use both of the teaching of Luigi Puccianti and of independent studies which made him, at only 19 years of age, the top expert in Italy on the then very new Quantum Theory.

Made a teacher of theoretical physics at the University of Rome at only 24, Enrico Fermi very soon became very famous thanks to the discovery in 1934 of element 93, obtained by bombarding uranium 238 within slowed down neutrons. After being awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1938 Enrico Fermi, who had already for some years been teaching in American universities, was forced to abandon Italy once and for all due to the issuing of racist laws (his wife was Jewish). Shortly afterwards the Italian scientist was among the leading scientists responsible for the very secret, project Manhattan, which enabled the USA to produce the atomic bomb. Enrico Fermi died in Chicago in 1954.

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