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This is a good book about a scientist who truly changed the world, Enrico Fermi. Sometimes called the father of the atomic age, he rose from a stable middle class environment in Rome--not a real hotbed of science at the time--to become one of the world's great physicists. This book presents a comprehensive treatment of his relatively short life (he died at 53).
This is a book that can be read a multiple levels. There is a certain level of science in it, but it would probably be overly simplistic for those who have studied physics. There are parts of it that are challenging for a non-scientist such as myself to follow in detail, but the author is really good at explaining the gist of why certain events are important. The story moves well and does not get bogged down, even though it is rather lengthy.
The book provides a very good study of the man. Fermi comes across as an outstanding colleague, particularly in his later years. He had many friends and admirers. He did not just plant himself in his laboratory. He insisted on having lunch (apparently for about two hours) each day with colleagues. He liked to hike and swim. He was quite athletic. He was a good husband, perhaps not as good a father, but rather typical for his time.
I think the book provides a good--and sympathetic--treatment of Fermi and the scientists who were involved in the Manhattan Project. It is extremely easy to criticize them from the space of nearly 80 years. It must be remembered that most of the scientists had immigrated from a Europe dominated by Nazi Germany. Many had worked at German universities. Germany was the epicenter of physics in the 1930s. So they had personal knowledge of the abilities of German scientists, and considerable concern about them developing an atomic bomb. Einstein himself signed a letter to Roosevelt that led to the start of the project. The book covers all of this in great detail, and allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
The narration is very good. Definitely worth your time if you have any interest in the subject.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
The book starts off a bit slow, but it tells in a very interesting way the fascinating story of the mind-boggling genius of Enrico Fermi. If you are a physicist or if you like physics this is a great addition to your understanding of the fascinating history of the development of quantum theory and nuclear physics. But even if you are not a physicist, it is a wonderful tale about a very impressive individual who does a lot of great things – very inspiring.