World’s Super Scientists – Fermi Enrico

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A Step into the Atomic Age – Fermi Enrico

Scientist Fermi Enrico (1901 to 1954), Italian – U.S. theoretical physicist, one of the chief architects and pioneers of the nuclear age.

Scientist Fermi Enrico discovered the effectiveness of the “slow” neutron in producing artificial disintegration of the atom.

Scientist Fermi was born in Rome on September 29, 1901; he was a student prodigy at school. He took his Doctorate at the age of 21 in the University of Pisa. He taught mathematics in the University of Florence.

The Royal Academy of Italy recognized his work and worth in 1929 by electing him as a member.

In 1932 the neutral particle called ‘neutron’ was discovered by Sir James Chadwick at Cambridge University.

In 1934 positively charged helium nuclei from polonium were discovered; such nuclei resulted on bombardment of elements with alpha particles.

Fascinated by the above findings, Fermi began further experimentation. He opined that slow neutrons obtained from radioactive beryllium were effective in producing emission of radioactive particles.
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When he used uranium of atomic weight 92 as the target of slow-neutron bombardment, he was puzzled to evolve some more radioactive substances. In 1938 Fermi was named a Nobel laureate in physics in recognition of the above work.

Meitner working along with her nephew, Otto Frisch explained this new phenomenon as splitting of the nucleus of the uranium atom into barium, krypton and smaller amounts of other disintegration products.

Meitner, a mathematical physicist postulated that nuclear fission was accompanied by stupendous release of energy by the conversion of the mass of uranium into energy, in accordance with Einstein’s ‘mass-energy equation’ : energy (E) is equal to the product of mass (m) times the speed of light squared (c2), commonly written as

E = mc2

Scientist Fermi and his colleagues alerted President Franklin D Roosevelt about the dangers of atom bomb; Hitler’s scientists knew about it already.

The Manhattan Project for the production of the first atom bomb began in 1942. Uranium-235 isotope would be the ideal one for a nuclear chain reaction. Fermi was entrusted with this job.General Studies Question Bank CD

In 1945 the testing of the first nuclear device took place in New Mexico; few weeks later atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

In 1942 the atomic pile in the University of Chicago released for the first time on earth a controlled flow of energy from a source other than the sun!

This is a forerunner of the modern nuclear reactor which releases, energy from matter to be used for peaceful purposes.

Element number 100 was named fermium, after the name Fermi, in his honour.

Fermi Award was instituted by the U.S.*Atomic Energy Commission. Fermi was the first recipient of this prestigious award of $25,000 in the year 1954. He died of cancer in Chicago in the same year.

Hip, hip, hurray to this 53 year young scientist! Those whom Gods love die young. Good men must die; but death cannot kill/erase their flames and achievements.“God, for His own inscrutable ends, made everyone blind to the phenomenon of atomic fission”.

—    an assistant of Scientist Fermi