Enrico Fermi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in the year 1938 for his discovery of the existence of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation and also for his discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons. The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. From 1901 the prizes have been awarded at a formal ceremony held on December 10 at Sweden, Stockholm.
Birth and education
Enrico Fermi was born on September 29, 1901 in Rome, Italy. He was the son of Alberto Fermi and Ida de Gattis. His father was a Chief Inspector in the Ministry of Communications. He studied at a local grammar school. ...view middle of the document...
In 1924 he was awarded a Rockefeller Fellowship, which enabled him to move to Leyden and work with P. Ehrenfest. Later in the same year he returned to Italy to work as a lecturer in Mathematical Physics and Mechanics at the University of Florence from 1924 to 1926.
It was in 1926 that Fermi discovered the statistical laws governing the particles subject to Pauli’s exclusion principle. These are now called Fermi- Dirac statistics and the particles are called fermions. These particles are an entire class of elementary particles with a half integer spin. They have been named fermions in his honour. They are in contrast to bosons the particles, which obey the Bose-Eintein statistics. Fermions explained diverse phenomena ranging from the thermal conductivity of metals to the structure and stability of dense compact stars like white dwarfs.
In 1927 Fermi became the Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Rome and remained there till 1838. Throughout his academic career Fermi was very popular for his lucid teaching.
Initially his research was focused on thermo dynamics and theoretical investigations on spectroscopy. In 1938 he evolved the b decay theory. He coalesced the work previous work on radiation theory with Pauli’s concept of the neutrino. In 1934 Curie and Joliot had discovered artificial radioactivity. Fermi showed that nuclear transformation occurred in almost every element subjected to nuclear bombardment. He showed that in addition to electrons ghostly particles first proposed by Pauli must also be emitted. He named these
particles neutrinos. Neutrinos were experimentally detected in 1956. They play a very important role in astrophysics. This work lead to the conclusion of the existence of slow neutrons leading to the discovery of nuclear fission. Fermi’s theory of b decay has played a crucial role in the understanding of weak nuclear reactions for several decades.
Fermi used neutrons as a tool to probe into the secrets held within the atomic nuclei. Several new radioactive elements were obtained by bombarding the naturally occurring nuclei with neutrons and the subsequent beta decay of these nuclei. Thus he produced more than forty different artificial radioisotopes. This resulted in the production of elements that lay beyond what was considered the Periodic Table at that time.
These radioisotopes have found to have many uses. They have been used in medicine, material testing and applications, heart implants, power generation in satellites and in many other diverse applications.
Around this time he also proposed a theory for Lippmann’s colour photographic techniques. He also contributed the “Golden rule “ in quantum mechanics. He wrote a key paper on the quantum theory of electromagnetic interactions.
The Nobel Prize
By 1938 Fermi was the greatest expert on neutrons. In the same year he awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in experimental nuclear physics. He demonstrated the existence of new radioactive...