Great Person of the Week: Enrico Fermi
I’m adding a new segment title Great Person of the Week. Based on last weeks post on Sergeant York, I decided I want to highlight one person each Sunday for either a general biography or a particular accomplishment.
This week we celebrate the genius mind of Enrico Fermi. Widely regarded as one of the greatest scientific minds in history Enrico Fermi applied for University and was instead placed in a graduate program. He received his doctorate in Physics in 1922 at age 21.
Originally Fermi studied Physics as an escape after the death of his brother at age 14. He delved into a 900-page Physics book from 1840 that was written in latin, which he not only read cover to cover but even made corrections in.
His work earned him the 1938 Nobel Prize in physics. After visiting Stockholm for his award he left with his family for America to escape Mussolini’s Fascist Party for its movement towards Hitler’s Nazism. Fermi became a member of the Fascist party in 1929, but it’s obvious his decision to join was based more on his being Italian than necessarily believing in what it came to mean later when he left.
After arriving in America Fermi began working with some of the greatest minds to create Nuclear reactions that gave us the atomic bomb and atomic energy. Still Fermi was purely a scientist and did not like the use of Nuclear weapons, saying;
“It is clear that such a weapon cannot be justified on any ethical ground… The fact that no limits exist to the destructiveness of this weapon makes its very existence and the knowledge of its construction a danger to humanity as a whole. It is necessarily an evil thing considered in any light.”
- “Some of you may ask, what is the good of working so hard merely to collect a few facts which will bring no pleasure except to a few long-haired professors who love to collect such things and will be of no use to anybody because only few specialists at best will be able to understand them? In answer to such question[s] I may venture a fairly safe prediction.
History of science and technology has consistently taught us that scientific advances in basic understanding have sooner or later led to technical and industrial applications that have revolutionized our way of life. It seems to me improbable that this effort to get at the structure of matter should be an exception to this rule. What is less certain, and what we all fervently hope, is that man will soon grow sufficiently adult to make good use of the powers that he acquires over nature.”
Fermi died from stomach cancer at age 52 on November 28, 1954.