Enrico Fermi (Italian: [enˈriːko ˈfermi]; 29 September 1901 – 28 November 1954) was an Italian physicist and the creator of the world’s first nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1. He has been called the “architect of the nuclear age” and the “architect of the atomic bomb”. He was one of the very few physicists in history to excel both theoretically and experimentally. Fermi held several patents related to the use of nuclear power, and was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity by neutron bombardment and the discovery of transuranic elements. He made significant contributions to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics.
Fermi left Italy in 1938 to escape new Italian Racial Laws that affected his Jewish wife Laura Capon. He emigrated to the United States where he worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II. Fermi led the team that designed and built Chicago Pile-1, which went critical on 2 December 1942, demonstrating the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. He was on hand when the X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, went critical in 1943, and when the B Reactor at the Hanford Site did so the next year. At Los Alamos he headed F Division, part of which worked on Edward Teller’s thermonuclear “Super” bomb. He was present at the Trinity test on 16 July 1945, where he used his Fermi method to estimate the bomb’s yield.