Enrico Fermi (1901-1954), "the father of the atomic bomb," showed such intelligence and quickness of mind that he gained admission, in 1918, to the Scuola Normale in Pisa, a school for the intellectual elite of Italy. He obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Pisa in 1922. After spending some time abroad, he was appointed to a professorship of physics at the University of Rome in 1926. Such a high position was unheard of in Italy for someone only twenty-five years old. But Fermi had published some thirty substantial papers and had the support of O. M. Corbino, Italy's most distinguished physicist at that time. Fermi's reputation attracted the brightest of the younger Italian physicists.
   Fermi's period in Rome (3926-4938) turned out to be remarkably productive in both the theoretical and the experimental fields. When Fermi used uranium of atomic weight 92 as the target of slow neutron bombardment, he obtained radioactive substances he could not identify. Fermi was unaware that he was on the edge of a world-shaking discovery, that he had actually split the atom. This development later was to have a profound impact in the field of nuclear energy. He addressed himself to the task of investigating the properties of a large number of newly created radioactive isotopes. For this work, he was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize for physics. But the growing anti-Semitism alarmed him. He and his Jewish wife departed Italy for the United States, where he undertook the task of creating a controlled self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction at the University of Chicago. He worked on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and was present at the first atomic blast in July l945.
   Fermi, together with the members of his family, became an American citizen. He was a professor of physics at Columbia University in 1939 before moving on to the University of Chicago in 1942. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission gave him a special $25,000 award in 1954 for his work on the bomb.
   Fermi's name is applied to several discoveries: to a unit of length in nuclear physics, fermi; to a group of subatomic particles, fermioris; and to the element fermium (atomic number 100), named the year after Fermi's death.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

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  • fermium — [ fɛrmjɔm ] n. m. • 1957; de Fermi, n. pr. (→ fermion) ♦ Chim., phys. Élément artificiel radioactif (Fm; no at. 100; m. at. [des isotopes] 248 à 256), huitième élément transuranien découvert dans la série des actinides. ● fermium nom masculin (de …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • fermium — n. the transuranic element of atomic number 100; symbol Fm. The atomic weight of the most stable isotope, having a half life of about 80 days, is 257. The first isotope, Fm255 was discovered in 1952 in the debris of a thermonuclear explosion.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • fermium — Symbol: Fm Atomic number: 100 Atomic weight: (253) Radioactive metallic transuranic element, belongs to the actinoids. Ten known isotopes, most stable is Fm 257 with a half life of 10 days. First identified by Albert Ghiorso and associates in the …   Elements of periodic system

  • Fermium — discovered in the debris of a 1952 U.S. nuclear test in the Pacific, named 1955 for Italian born U.S. physicist Enrico Fermi (1901 1954) …   Etymology dictionary

  • fermium — ☆ fermium [fer′mē əm, fʉr′mē əm ] n. [ModL: so named (1955) by A. Ghiorso and co workers, after FERMI Enrico (in honor of his studies in nuclear physics) + IUM] a radioactive, metallic chemical element, one of the actinides, produced by intense… …   English World dictionary

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  • fermium — /ferr mee euhm/, n. Chem., Physics. a transuranic element. Symbol: Fm; at. no.: 100. [1950 55; named after E. FERMI; see IUM] * * * ▪ chemical element  (Fm), synthetic chemical element of the actinoid series of the periodic table, atomic number… …   Universalium

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