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Atoms in the Family

My Life with Enrico Fermi

In this absorbing account of life with the great atomic scientist Enrico Fermi, Laura Fermi tells the story of their emigration to the United States in the 1930s—part of the widespread movement of scientists from Europe to the New World that was so important to the development of the first atomic bomb. Combining intellectual biography and social history, Laura Fermi traces her husband’s career from his childhood, when he taught himself physics, through his rise in the Italian university system concurrent with the rise of fascism, to his receipt of the Nobel Prize, which offered a perfect opportunity to flee the country without arousing official suspicion, and his odyssey to the United States.

277 pages | 33 halftones, 1 line drawing | 6 x 9 | © 1954

Biography and Letters

Physical Sciences: Physics--Popular Books


“If Laura Fermi is short on domestic candor, she makes up for it in excellent science-chronicling. Her accounts of Fermi’s critical experiments in Italy will delight the lay reader without horrifying the pure scientist.”

Ralph E. Lapp | New York Times

“Fermi’s biography by his wife is a polished, lively piece on the man who won the Nobel Prize for work in nuclear physics and who helped to make the atom bomb. Covering their life together through three decades and two continents, there are intimate pictures of the early teaching days in Rome in an increasingly fascistic Italy, of other scientists who were their friends, and of the years at Columbia, Chicago, and Los Alamos. Valuable.”


“Damn original, these Fermis.”

New York Times

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Part I: Italy
1. First Encounters
2. The Times before We Met
3. The Times before We Met—Continued
4. Birth of a School
5. Bébé Peugeot
6. Early Married Years
7. Mr. North and the Academies
8. A Summer in Ann Arbor
9. Work
10. South American Interlude
11. An Accidental Discovery
12. How Not To Raise Children
13. November 10, 1938
14. Departure
Part II: America
15. The Process of Americanization
16. Some Shapes of Things To Come
17. An Enemy Alien Works for Uncle Sam
18. Of Secrecy and the Pile
19. Success
20. Site Y
21. A Bodyguard and a Few Friends
22. Life on the Mesa
23. The War Ends
24. Exit Pontcorvo
25. A New Toy: The Giant Cyclotron

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