Article ID: CBB480792260

Enrico Fermi’s Discovery of Neutron-Induced Artificial Radioactivity: A Case of “Emanation” from “Divine Providence” (2020)


We reconstruct Enrico Fermi’s remarkable discovery of neutron-induced radioactivity in March 1934 with a focus on the experimental apparatus he used, such as the original neutron sources preserved in Italy and abroad. Special attention is paid to the role of the Radium Office of the Institute of Public Health in Rome in providing to Fermi the “radium emanation” (Radon-222) used to make his radon-beryllium neutron sources. This particular angle of investigation allows us to make a full reconstruction of what Fermi actually realized in his laboratory, to gain a better insight into his methodological choices, and, ultimately, to understand how special circumstances conspired to make the discovery of neutron-induced radioactivity possible.

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Authors & Contributors
Robotti, Nadia
Guerra, Francisco
Sebastiani, Fabio
De Gregorio, Alberto
David N. Schwartz
Bucurescu, Dorel
Physics in Perspective
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Science and Education
化学史研究 [Kagakushi kenkyū; Journal of the Japanese Society for the History of Chemistry]
Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences
W. W. Norton & Co.
Columbia University Press
Basic Books
Atomic, nuclear, and particle physics
Discovery in science
Atomic bomb
Nuclear fission
Fermi, Enrico
Joliot-Curie, Irène
Joliot-Curie, Frédéric
Becquerel, Henri
Mărăcineanu, Ştefania (1882-1944)
Sommerfeld, Arnold Johannes Wilhelm
Time Periods
20th century, early
20th century
19th century
Rome (Italy)
United States
Paris (France)
Pisa (Italy)
Hanford Nuclear Site (Washington)
Università di Roma
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)

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