We don’t often hear about great Italians nowadays, but here’s one we can all thank.

If it wasn’t for Fermi having a Jewish wife, he probably would have remained in Italy and Hitler would have been 1st to get the A-Bomb. Imagine the consequences. So we also have to thank his Jewish wife.
(got to admit I’m biased because my Dad was Italian and my Mom, Jewish.)

It’s the birthday of the physicist physicist Enrico Fermi, born in Rome (1901). It was Einstein’s theory that laid the basis for nuclear energy, but it was Enrico Fermi who was the first to use that theory to build the first functioning nuclear reactor, and he went on to help build the atom bomb.

He almost discovered nuclear fission in 1934, when he was still living in Italy, in a series of experiments with neutrons. And if he had not made the mistake of using tinfoil to wrap his sample of uranium, nuclear energy would probably have been discovered that year, might even have been used by Hitler to win the war.

But Fermi won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1938, went to Stockholm to accept it, and then defected to the U.S. with his wife, who was Jewish. He got a job at Columbia, then at the University of Chicago where he built the first nuclear reactor on a squash court under the stands of the football field in late 1942.

He conducted the first nuclear reaction on the morning of December 2, 1942, the same morning the State Department announced that 2 million Jews had been killed in Europe, and 5 million more were in danger. And three years later, in the desert outside of Los Alamos, Fermi watched as the first atomic bomb was exploded.

reposted from the Writer’s Almanac

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