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Eccelenza Fermi

Fact File
Date of Birth-Death : 1901-1954
Country of Birth : Italy
Major Discoveries : Develops Fermi-Dirac statistics; Theory of beta decay; designed the first man-made nuclear reactor
Writing by the Scientist :
Thermodynamics based on a series of lectures Fermi delivered at Columbia University

Enrico Fermi, the Italian scientist, who led the team that built the world's first man-made nuclear reactor in 1942 received his doctorate at the University of Pisa in 1922 just a few months before Benito Mussolini seized power in Italy. Fermi's discoveries brought him many honours. He was elected to the Royal Italian Academy of Sciences and Mussolini conferred the title 'Eccelenza' on him.
Once when Fermi drove to the Academy to attend a meeting that was to be addressed by Mussolini the dictator’s security men stopped him. They did not recognise him. Fermi was late for the meeting but he knew that if he told the guards who he was they would not believe him.
An Eccelenza was expected to dress like an aristocrat and usually came in a chauffeur-driven car. Not wishing to be detained while they checked his credentials he told them he was Fermi's driver. That did the trick. The guards opened the gates and let him pass!
In 1938 Enrico Fermi went to Sweden to receive the Nobel Prize for his work on neutron bombardment and then, instead of returning home, went to America where he settled permanently.












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