Fermi, Enrico

1901-54


Italian physicist, produced the first nuclear chain reaction in 1942.

In 1934, while professor of physics at the University of Rome, Fermi began experiments where he bombarded a variety of elements with neutrons. He proved that slow neutrons are very effective in producing radioactive atoms. Not realizing he had split the atom, Fermi announced what he thought were elements beyond uranium.

In 1938 Fermi escaped Fascist Italy. Four years later, at the University of Chicago, he developed the first atomic pile, and produced the first nuclear chain reaction. He later worked on the atomic bomb project at Los Alamos, N.M. Won the Nobel prize in physics for his theoretical work on nuclear processes.
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