Enrico Fermi was born in Rome on September 29,
1901. In 1918, he won a fellowship of the Scuola Normale Superiore
of Pisa. He spent four years at the University of Pisa, gaining
his doctor's degree in physics in 1922 with Professor Puccianti.
In 1923, he was awarded a scholarship from the Italian Government
and spent some months with Professor Max Born in Göttingen.
With a Rockefeller Fellowship, in 1924, he moved to Leyden to
work with P. Ehrenfest, and later that same year he returned
to Italy to occupy for two years (1924-1926) the post of Lecturer
and Mechanics at the University of Florence.
In 1926, Fermi discovered the statistical laws, nowadays known
as the "Fermi statistics". In 1927, Fermi was elected
Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Rome. In
1934, he evolved the ß-decay theory, coalescing previous
work on radiation theory. Following
the discovery by Curie and Joliot of artificial radioactivity (1934),
he demonstrated that nuclear transformation occurs in almost every
element subjected to neutron bombardment. This work resulted in
the discovery of slow neutrons that same year, leading to the discovery
of nuclear fission and the production of elements lying beyond
what was until then the Periodic Table. In 1938, Fermi was without
doubt the greatest expert on neutrons, and he continued his work
on this topic on his arrival in the United States, where he was
soon appointed Professor of Physics at Columbia University, N.Y.
Upon the discovery of fission, by Hahn and Strassmann early in
1939, he immediately saw the possibility of emission of secondary
neutrons and of a chain reaction. During the last years of his
life, Fermi occupied himself with the problem of the mysterious
origin of cosmic rays,
thereby developing a theory according to which a universal magnetic
field - acting as a giant accelerator - would account for the fantastic
energies present in the cosmic ray particles.
The Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Fermi for his work on
the artificial radioactivity produced by neutrons, and for nuclear
reactions brought about by slow neutrons. Fermi was a member of several
academies and learned societies in Italy and abroad.
He died in Chicago on November 28, 1954.
(From Nobel Lectures, Physics 1922-1941, Elsevier Publishing Company,