An exhibition on Enrico Fermi – a dual genius between theories and experiments

Translated and adapted from an article from SIF Prima Pagina.

The extraordinary personality of Enrico Fermi, the great Italian physicist paradoxically better known abroad than in Italy, is presented in a special exhibition. “Mostra Fermi” was first shown in Genova, from 22 October 2015 until 16 January 2016, on the occasion of the “Festival della  Scienza 2015” and then moved on to Bologna, where it is on display at the “Ex Chiesa di San Mattia”, from 6 February until 22 May 2016.

The exhibition aims to illustrate the great scientific achievements of Fermi, a man with an exceptional creative mind, with a dual genius, equally balanced between theory and experiment. The project, the result of a study group composed of physicists and historians of physics who has worked for several months, highlights the greatness of Enrico Fermi, the master and giant of twentieth century physics, through the presentation of various aspects, human and scientific, of his life.

The theories and experimental findings of Fermi had an enormous impact on modern science. 2016 is a key year to commemorate the great Italian Nobel laureate: it was the ninety-year anniversary of the formulation by Fermi, of what is now known as Fermi-Dirac statistics, a job that took him immediately to the forefront among young theoretical physicists from around the world. Eighty years have passed since the completion of the publication, in Italy, of works signed by Fermi and his Roman group on radioactivity caused by neutron bombardment; works that were the basis for the award of the 1938 Nobel Prize for physics to Fermi.

In the exhibition, a journey in steps guides the visitor through Fermi's major scientific achievements and presents them in an original way suited to the general public, combining objects and traditional panels with video and audio multimedia products. For the scientific part, seven stages have been identified: Our universe of fermions and bosons; The formidable theory of beta rays; An all-Italian Nobel Prize; "The Italian navigator has landed in the new world ..."; The mystery of cosmic rays; And now accelerators; The last gift of Fermi to Italy. To these scientific steps are added those concerning more closely the story of his life, certainly out of the ordinary, and the environment in which he worked. Finally, in the heart of the exhibition, the original previously unknown logbook of Fermi from 1934 which bears witness to one of his greatest discoveries.

The exhibition has been organised by the Museo Storico della Fisica e Centro Studi e Ricerche "Enrico Fermi" (Centro Fermi), in collaboration with the Societ? Italiana di Fisica (SIF) and INFN, Bologna Unit.

More information can be found on the web site of the exhibition.

Alice Matters