How much was Enrico Fermi worth?
|Net Worth:||$500 Thousand|
|Date of Birth:||September 29, 1901|
About Enrico Fermi
- Birthdate: September 29, 1901
- Birthplace: Rome, Italy
- Died: November 28, 1954, in Chicago, Illinois
Enrico Fermi received the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for “demonstrations of the existence of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation, and for his related discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons.“
Early Research Accomplishments
Enrico Fermi received his PhD from his university in Pisa in 1922, when he was only 21 years old. Italian physics at the time emphasized experimental physics over theoretical physics, so his thesis work focused on x-ray diffraction techniques, but in 1923 he was the first to observe that the equation E = mc2, introduced nearly twenty years earlier by Albert Einstein, implied that there was an immense amount of potential energy contained within the atomic nucleus … an insight that laid the foundation for harnessing nuclear energy through the processes of nuclear fusion and nuclear fission.
In response to Wolfgang Pauli’s 1925 publication of his exclusion principle, Fermi performed a statistical analysis of identical particles that obeyed the principle. These sorts of particles would become named fermions after his work in this area.
Fermi then went on to develop the scientific understanding of fundamental particles, including predicting the existence of the neutrino and as a result of the weak interaction, which he also proposed.
He also conducted a series of experiments in radioactivity resulting in developing new elements when he bombarded thorium and uranium with slow neutrons.
Dr. Fermi’s wife, Laura, was Jewish, so he was motivated in 1938 by Italian anti-Jewish laws to move to the United States. He went on to work on the Manhattan Project and helped to develop the first atomic bomb. But first, his work focused on less directly militarized aspects of research into nuclear reactions. In 1942, he oversaw the creation of Chicago Pile-1, the first self-sustaining nuclear reactor, which went critical (in other words, the nuclear fusion process became self-sustaining) on December 2. After this, Robert Oppenheimer moved Fermi out to join the team at Los Alamos.
Following World War II, Fermi became a professor at the University of Chicago starting in 1945. There he did work contributing to the understanding of cosmic rays, suggesting that they gained their energy from being accelerated through magnetic fields as they traversed the galaxy.
In his later years, he also became concerned about humanity’s ability to wisely use the nuclear technology being developed. This quote, which comes from notes for a 1952 speech on “The Future of Nuclear Physics” (and recounted in the 2004 book Fermi Remembered, p. 142) is a good representation of these concerns:
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 hairs 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 I may venture a fairly safe prediction. History of science and technology has constantly 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 the rule–What is less certain, and what we fervently hope is that man will soon grow sufficiently adult to make good use of the powers that he acquires over nature.
One other area that became attached to his name was based on his considerations of extraterrestrial life. He put forth the idea that if there were intelligent life within the universe, it was very strange and surprising that we had not yet encountered them. This idea became known formally as Fermi’s paradox.
Death and After
Fermi died of stomach cancer in 1954 at his home in Chicago.
In 1974, the particle accelerator in Batavia, Illinois, associated with the University of Chicago, was dubbed Fermilab, in recognition of his key role as one of the founders of modern particle physics. In 2008, the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope was named in honor of his cosmic ray research. Numerous awards have been named after him, including the highest award offered by the United States Atomic Energy Commission: the Fermi Award.