Enrico Fermi was one of the most significant figures of 20th century physics, with major contributions across a wide range of sub-disciplines. He was also a central figure in the Manhattan Project, and led the team that created the first controlled, sustained nuclear chain reaction at the University of Chicago in December 1942.
How did Fermi become Fermi? Drawing on research undertaken in preparation for his new biography of Fermi, The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age, David Schwartz will discuss the development of Fermi as a physicist as well as the role of nature, nurture and historical circumstance in his career and the characteristics behind both his strengths and his weaknesses.
Are great physicists born, do they make themselves or do others make them? How does the accident of one’s birth influence a career like Fermi’s? What was it that enabled Fermi to continue to contribute to the field well beyond the age when many great physicists are content to rest on their previous achievements?
This event is sponsored by the Department of History and the Corliss Lamont Fund.