US Stamps

By Michael Baadke

Born Sept. 29: Enrico Fermi

September 29, 2016 03:30 AM

  • Italian-born physicist Enrico Fermi is commemorated on a 34¢ United States stamp issued in 2001.

By Michael Baadke

Enrico Fermi, who was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in physics, was born Sept. 29, 1901, in Rome, Italy. He became a naturalized United States citizen on July 11, 1944.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a 34¢ commemorative stamp honoring Fermi on Sept. 29, 2001, the 100th anniversary of his birth (Scott 3533). The first-day ceremony was held at the University of Chicago, where Fermi led a scientific team that designed and assembled the first nuclear reactor as part of the secret Manhattan Project, leading to the development of the atom bomb.

Fermi studied physics at the University of Pisa, earning his doctorate in 1922, and he later taught physics at the University of Rome. After receiving the Nobel Prize, Fermi left Italy with his wife and two children for the United States, and in 1939 he joined the Columbia University faculty, teaching physics. Working at the University of Chicago in December 1942, Fermi and his team successfully produced the first controlled nuclear chain reaction.

Fermi died Nov. 28, 1954. Italy commemorated him on an 800-lire stamp that was issued on the same date as the U.S. stamp (Italy Scott 2424).