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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


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

valutazioni:
4.5/5 (25 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
10 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Feb 14, 2017
ISBN:
9781515988960
Formato:
Audiolibro

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Descrizione

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 Segrè 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.
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Feb 14, 2017
ISBN:
9781515988960
Formato:
Audiolibro

Disponibile anche come...

Disponibile anche come libroLibro

Informazioni sull'autore

Gino Segre is a professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania. He has been a visiting professor at M.I.T. and Oxford, chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department of the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of Theoretical Physics at the National Science Foundation. He is the author of three books of scientific history, Ordinary Geniuses, Faust in Copenhagen, and A Matter of Degrees.


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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (3/5)
    I've never studied physics and the only thing I knew of Fermi was that his name gets tossed around quite a bit on the Big Bang Theory, usually in reference to the Fermi lab. This biography fills in the knowledge gap in an understandable way for those not of a scientific bent. Integral to the development of the atomic age, this reveals Fermi as a man on a personal level during one of the most tumultuous times in history.
  • (5/5)
    Who was Enrico Fermi? An Italian physicist, one of the architects of the atomic bomb, someone whose name comes up rather often in crossword puzzles - this was pretty much all I knew about this great scientist before reading this book. In their "Afterword", the authors state that they sought to describe a remarkable man who shaped history, along with a turbulent history that shaped the man. In my opinion they have achieved both these aims.The authors are clearly great admirers of Fermi. He was apparently well liked by everyone with whom he came in contact throughout his lifetime. Unlike many of his famous contemporaries, he was fascinated by both the experimental and theoretical aspects of physics. When conducting experiments, he pitched in with everyone else to do the menial tasks required, a practice which obviously endeared him to his assistants. Early in his career, he earned the reputation of always being right, "infallible like the Pope", and had the nickname "the pope" for the rest of his life.Fermi was born in 1901 and grew up in Rome in a middle class family. He began to educate himself on very complex subjects at an early age, and his talent was soon recognized, enabling him to attend some of the best schools in Italy. After graduation, he met a smart young lady named Laura, a member of a rather prominent Jewish family, and eventually married her. They remained together until his death, by all accounts a loving couple who produced a son and daughter.About the time that Fermi was attending university, Benito Mussolini was taking over the government of Italy. One learns quite a bit about how this came about, and the effect on Laura's and Enrico's lives. Eventually, the Fermis were forced to immigrate to the United States, a most fortunate occurrence as it turned out. Laura's parents were not so lucky.During the 1920s and 1930s Fermi was rapidly becoming known as one of the top physicists in the world, not just Italy. When he arrived in the U.S., he had no difficulty in obtaining a position in academia here. The government naturally turned to him when the idea of a super bomb was born. We then learn much about the Manhattan Project and the tremendous contributions made by Enrico Fermi and many more scientists, including a large number of immigrants. The authors describe the moral dilemmas the scientists faced as they created a weapon with terrible power, yet one that could save hundreds of thousands of lives by bringing World War II to an end.The authors are well qualified to write this biography. Gino Segre is a physicist himself, and the nephew of Emilio Segre, one of Fermi's first students, a life-long friend, and a participant in the Manhattan Project. His wife, Bettina Hoerlin, is the daughter of a physicist who was also forced to flee from Nazi Germany, and who worked at Los Alamos after the war ended. Their brief descriptions of the scientific work and experiments that led to the idea of splitting the atom, as well as the tremendous efforts required to develop the bomb when it was feared (incorrectly, of course) that Germany might get one first, can easily be understood by the layman. On second thought, understood might be too strong a word, but at least we get some insight.I strongly recommend this book to all who would like to know more about a very important, Nobel prize winning figure in the world of science, as well as to know more about the birth of the atomic age.
  • (4/5)
    "The Pope of Physics" is a good all-around biography of a scientist, Enrico Fermi, whose renown with the general public is far less than his accomplishments would dictate. Fermi was a truly fascinating figure, and the book does well describing the breadth of his interests and how he was a key player in many areas, from the birth of quantum mechanics to the building of the atomic bomb. That Segre' is able to convey the sense of Fermi's scientific achievements without being too technical is to his credit.Though "The Pope of Physics" goes into as much personal detail as possible, the author is dealing with some scant material given Fermi's was ever self-contained. That's a little disappointing for readers, but still this is a fine, well-written and desperately needed book on Enrico Fermi that is accessible to general readers.Four stars
  • (5/5)
    In "The Pope of Physics" Gino Segre and Bettina Hoerlin have created an imminently readable biography of one of the true greats of 20th Century physics. Segre and Hoerlin do an excellent job of weaving just enough of the physics science for an appreciation of this age of discovery in the quantum realm. For the details of the science, there are many previous texts that detail Fermi's accomplishments in the golden age of quantum physics between WWI and WWII. "The Pope of Physics" takes the perspective of Fermi, the man. With unique access to the Fermi family and personal insight into Italy, Gino Segre and his wife Bettina have developed a revealing narrative for the private Fermi. This approach to Fermi's life only strengthens his already great legacy as teacher and an exponent of the complex world of quantum physics. An illustration of Fermi's contribution is that no less than 6 of his former students became Noble laureates. A record that has no equal.But we also learn that Fermi, even at the pinnacle of preeminence, had no interest in wielding the political influence available to him. At every turn, he avoided exercising these opportunities always wishing to return to scientific inquires. And despite his reluctance to address moral and political consequences, such was his persona that no one ever held this against him.Though Fermi is the focus of the book, we also get glimpses of the other greats of the period through the his decades of collaboration. These insights into the collaborations clearly show the power the combined intellect with Fermi in the lead.I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about the man behind this truly great of quantum physics.
  • (4/5)
    This is a very readable and enjoyable biography of one of the great physicists of the 20th century. It covers his early and domestic life as well as his scientific contributions and his final decision to leave Italy for America before WWII. While his scientific discoveries are discussed in some detail, the book easily understood by the lay person. Special attention is given to the history of the atomic bomb and atomic power, and the role that Fermi played in its development. Fermi was very apolitical; more interested in the science than how his discoveries would be used, and this biography details his attempts to leave the politics and morality decisions to others. Laura, his wife, is well characterized as well, and I have some interest in reading her book, Atoms in the Family.
  • (5/5)
    This is a brisk and exciting biography of a man who was central to many of the advances in mid-20th century physics. Given the scope of Fermi's scientific achievements, I am surprised that this is also the FIRST biography of him.Segre and Hoerlin have done an outstanding job of compressing their subject's life and work into a manageable and compelling narrative of the man and his times --and what times these were: the relativity and quantum revolutions beginning in the early 20th century, the Fascist takeover of Italy, the breathless work creating the first-ever nuclear reactor ("CP-1" -- for 'critical pile 1')!The only reservation I have is also one of the things I like about the book: its brevity. One gets a strong sense of Fermi as a person, especially through his effect on other people; however, his center remains somewhat enigmatic. At the same time, the portrait the authors create is of a man who (according to many people) was exactly what he appeared to be! Therefore, a biography of the by-now-familiar length of, say, 800 pages or so would have left the reader with the same portrait -- and tired eyes. But one would like, for example, to know more about Fermi's famous indifference to politics. This alters a bit once the enormity of the destructive potential of thermonuclear weapons becomes apparent, but ... what was the reason Fermi compartmentalized his life so much? WAS there a reason? For years, his strongest feelings about Mussolini could be summed up as "embarrassment." As long as he was free to pursue science, all was well. It was only when the threat of anti-Jewish laws loomed (Fermi was not a Jew, but his wife Laura was) that he began to have substantive difficulty working for a Fascist regime. I'm confident the majority of readers will find this book as exciting as I did. It's first-rate.
  • (5/5)
    This biography of Enrico Fermi is extremely detailed and comprehensive. It takes us through the entire life of this amazingly talented scientist. Even though I have a strong scientific background, I did not know how important Fermi was. Indubitably of genius status, he ranked with the greatest scientists of the 20th century. Because he lived through times of such turmoil (the Depression, World War II, the Cold War), the story of Fermi's life is told against this background of conflict which makes his achievements even more important. The authors are connected to Fermi directly through their family and friends (Segre's father was a colleague), so there are many very personal anecdotes which shed more light on Fermi the man. In addition, the science in the book is explained very extensively -- it's almost like a "basic primer" on nuclear physics. Thus you get a grounding in the science as well as the scientist.
  • (5/5)
    I won an Arc of this book from Librarything's Early Readers group. This biography describes a man who helped shape the modern age, and along with that it describes the turbulent times that shaped the man. I throughly enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to anyone interested in science or nuclear-related things (history, facts, etc). This is the best biography I have read in a long time. It starts from the beginning of Fermi's life and walks us right through to the end. Using memoirs and interviews, the authors have painted a picture of a remarkable man.
  • (5/5)
    Following the life of this genius through wars and migration paints a vivid image of the journey the atomic age. I hadn’t known that his wife Laura Fermi was an activist and writer. I’m going to read her books now. I really enjoyed this, and learnt a lot.
  • (5/5)
    The authors have written a very complete and detailed accounting of Enrico Fermi’s life which extended from 1901 to till his death in 1954. It is a wonderful biography of a man with an intellect similar to Newton or Einstein and able to discern and calculate previously unknown facts of physics. His story begins with his birth in Italy, relates the merger of city states into one country, the rise of fascism, the persecution of the Jews and involvement of Germany and Italy in the world war. Along the way his interaction with famous physicists of the time are introduced. It is both a biography of a great man and a history of nuclear physics. The book is extremely well researched and contains voluminous notes and references. This book is sure to please anyone interested in nuclear or quantum physics and is useful in understanding the first half of the twentieth century.
  • (4/5)
    I wanted to read this as soon as it came out. I have just finished 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb' by Richard Rhodes and it left me wanting more on Niels Bohr, Oppenheimer, and Fermi. Oppenheimer has a great biography, but finding an adequate one of Bohr and Fermi seemed like it was going to be difficult until I found this one of Fermi. I was so excited I weaseled my way into an ERC and was gratified it wasn't crap. I'm usually a bit skeptical of co-authored books, but this one seemed to take the best of both worlds. It was able to use Segrè's technical knowledge of physics and match it with Hoerlin's narrative skills. Usually, the best way for me to judge whether I liked a book is if I will read another by the same author. After finishing this, I'm looking for Segrè's 'Faust in Copenhagen'.