The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age

The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age

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The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age by Gino Segre, Bettina Hoerlin, Timothy John Campbell

Enrico Fermi is unquestionably among the greats of the world's physicists, the most famous Italian scientist since Galileo. Called the Pope by his peers, he was regarded as infallible in his instincts and research. His discoveries changed our world; they led to weapons of mass destruction and conversely to life-saving medical interventions.

This unassuming man struggled with issues relevant today, such as the threat of nuclear annihilation and the relationship of science to politics. Fleeing Fascism and anti-Semitism, Fermi became a leading figure in America's most secret project: building the atomic bomb. The last physicist who mastered all branches of the discipline, Fermi was a rare mixture of theorist and experimentalist. His rich legacy encompasses key advances in fields as diverse as comic rays, nuclear technology, and early computers.

In their revealing book, The Pope of Physics, Gino Segre and Bettina Hoerlin bring this scientific visionary to life. An examination of the human dramas that touched Fermi's life as well as a thrilling history of scientific innovation in the twentieth century, this is the comprehensive biography that Fermi deserves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781515918967
Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date: 02/14/2017
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 5.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Gino Segre has a bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard, attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for graduate school, and spent time in Europe for postdoctoral work. He began teaching at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967. A long-term interest in history led him to begin writing about science history.

Bettina Hoerlin holds a doctorate in policy sciences and taught at the University of Pennsylvania for seventeen years, having previously served as health commissioner of Philadelphia. She was also a visiting professor at Haverford College. She lives with her husband, physicist Gino Segre, in Philadelphia.

Tim Campbell is a multiple AudioFile Earphones Award-winning narrator. He has performed hundreds of titles in a variety of genres and was a finalist for the 2017 Voice Arts Awards best narration performance in nonfiction.

Table of Contents


Prologue: Trinity 1


1. Family Roots 7

2. The Little Match (Il Piccolo Fiammifero) 13

3. Leaning In: Physics and Pisa 18

4. Student Days 24

5. The Young Protégé 28

6. The Summer of 1924 35

7. Florence 41

8. Quantum Leaps 49

9. Enrico and Laura 56


10. The Boys of Via Panisperna 65

11. The Royal Acad emy 70

12. Crossing the Atlantic 76

13. Bombarding the Nucleus 81

14. Decay 87

15. The Neutron Comes to Rome 93

16. The Rise and Fall of the Boys 102

17. Transitions 110

18. Stockholm Calls 116


19. Fission 127

20. News Travels 135

21. Chain Reaction 144

22. The Race Begins 151

23. New Americans 159

24. The Sleeping Giant 167

25. Chicago Bound 176

26. Critical Pile (CP-1) 184

27. The Day the Atomic Age Was Born 193


28. The Manhattan Project: A Three-Legged Stool 201

29. Signor Fermi Becomes Mister Farmer 209

30. Götterdämmerung 219

31. The Hill 226

32. “No Acceptable Alternative” 234

33. Aftershock 244

34. Goodbye, Mr. Farmer 253


35. Physicist with a Capital F 261

36. The Fermi Method 268

37. The Super 275

38. Circling Back 283

39. Last Gift to Italy (Ultimo Regalo all’Italia) 291

40. Farewell to the Navigator 296

Afterword 303

Notes 309

Bibliography 326

Acknowledgments 334

Index 337

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