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Enrico Fermi's biography by his wife has already been recognized by the New Yorker (where it ran in serial) as a polished, lively piece on the man who won the Nobel Prize for his work in nuclear physics and who helped to make the atom bomb. A many sided book, for Mrs. Fermi had a training in science herself, it begins with the years before they met and in its portrait of Fermi as a person there is the humor and detachment of an outsider looking in rather than a wife looking out. Genius was apparent early and when he grew to manhood Fermi was as calm and balanced about it as he was self confident. Believing in himself was perhaps the reason for momentous work. By the time they became acquainted Fermi was a promising physics instructor at the University of Rome and Mrs. Fermi a student in the general sciences. There is much of their daily life, the good times had with friends and sharp characterizations through their talks but it was a time of political unrest too and the tension builds to the point where the Fermis were obliged to leave Italy and the fascist threat. Dramatically, their departure was made towards Stockholm where Fermi's pioneering was recognized in 1938. The rest is history. Fermi taught at Columbia and when war came he was among the first to be drafter for the Manhattan project that culminated in the 1945 explosions. The work- its phases in New York, in Chicago with the cyclotron, at Los Alamos- is described as Mrs. Fermi experienced it. Admittedly not an ""inside story,"" it is something more than that. By reporting and going beyond many of the incidents that made headlines later, it is an intelligent woman's wise view of the very human things that change our world. Valuable for a lay public.

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1954
Publisher: University of Chicago Press