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Enrico Fermi And The Development Of The Atomic Bomb

1289 words - 5 pages

Enrico Fermi and the Development of the Atomic Bomb

The 20th century saw many important discoveries which impacted people worldwide. Great discoveries were made in the realm of science and technology which lead to the atomic age. One of the leading pioneers in the area of physics was Enrico Fermi. Without his contributions, the atomic bomb may not have been developed or would have possibly been postponed.
Enrico Fermi was born into a family who had enough money to live comfortably. "Fermi was born in Rome on the 29th of September,1901, the son of Alberto Fermi, a Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Communications, and Ida de Gattis" (Mawson 12). Although he had a comfortable life, he also had his share of problems and tragedies. As a child, Fermi was small and unattractive. He was often lonely and found comfort in the company of his older brother. Fermi did not study physics until he was a teenager.

Tragedy had struck his family. "He discovered physics at the age of 14, when left bereft by the death of his cherished older brother, Guilo, during minor throat surgery…" (Rhodes 154). Fermi could not be consoled by religion like his family. The death of his brother left him even more quiet and lonely than before.
Enrico Fermi then decided to devote his life to studying. "Physics may have offered more consolatory certitude than religion" (Poindexter 50). His early aptitude for physics and mathematics was recognized. After his brother's death, the grieving boy browsed through bookstalls at Campo dei Fion in Rome. "He found two antique volumes of elementary physics and carried them home…" (154). Fermi read them and corrected some of the mathematics. When finished, he discovered something he had not noticed before. They were written in Latin. Due to Fermi's excellent achievement in mathematics and physics, he was encouraged by many of his father's colleagues. "He progressed so quickly, guided by an engineer, that his competition essay was judged worthy of a doctoral examination (10).

His family had enough money to send him to college but he was still able to get scholarships for his academic achievement. He won a fellowship of the Scuola Normale Superiore in 1918. "He spent four years at the University of Pisa, gaining his doctoral degree in physics in 1922…"(12). He was even teaching his teachers there by 1920. While still an undergraduate, Fermi worked out his first theory of permanent value to physics. He also attended the Universities of Rome, Leiden and Gottingen. "His only setback was a period of post doctoral study in Germany in 1923 among such talents such as Wolfgang Pauli and Werner Heisenberg when his talents went unrecognized" (154). He preferred simplicity and concreteness rather than pretension and the philosophic German style. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American theorist, later described Fermi as "not a philosopher" and unable to let things be...

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