The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age

David N. Schwartz. Basic, $30 (480p) ISBN 978-0-465-07292-7
Schwartz (NATO’s Nuclear Dilemmas), a State Department alumnus, introduces a new generation to Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) with the first English-language biography of Fermi in 47 years. An Italian immigrant, Nobel laureate, and passionate outdoorsman, Fermi pioneered the physics breakthroughs that shaped the 20th century. Readers will find no equations here, only unfaltering, clear explanations of the science behind his discoveries relating to the weak and strong interactions, Fermi-Dirac statistics, computational physics, and nuclear reactors. Along with Fermi’s life in Italy and America, Schwartz ably resurrects his Los Alamos years, showing how “much of what was secret in the Manhattan Project originated in Fermi’s brain.” Uniquely, Fermi triply excelled in experimentation, theory, and teaching. By “stripping problems to their bare essentials and leading his students through step-by-step solutions,” Fermi “believed that anyone could learn what he knew.” Charismatic, confident, and approachable, he was beloved by students and peers alike. But Fermi showed reticence “in every aspect of his personal life,” writing “neither letters nor diaries.” Schwartz recreates Fermi’s story from the outside in, aided by the writings of his wife, Laura, and his colleagues. Told in a sure, steady voice, Schwartz’s book delivers a scrupulously researched and lovingly crafted portrait of the “greatest Italian scientist since Galileo.” (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/09/2017
Release date: 12/05/2017
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-1417-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-1420-5
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