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The legacy of Enrico Fermi. The challenges of the future

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CREF promotes original and high-impact lines of research, based on physical methods, but with a strong interdisciplinary character and in relation to the main problems of the modern knowledge society.

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Individual research areas
History of Physics
Research staff

third mission

The CREF was born with a dual soul: a research centre and a historical museum. Its aim is to preserve and disseminate the memory of Enrico Fermi and to promote the dissemination and communication of scientific culture.

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la ricerca

In the footsteps of via Panisperna boys: between scientific research and civil commitment

Head of Research
Nadia Robotti e Francesco Guerra

Scientific Content and Goals

The project represents a continuation, with some notable developments, of the research activities carried out in previous years. In particular, we intend to analyse the complex of activities carried out at international level and their repercussions in Italy, which represent the beginnings of the discovery of the effects of slow neutrons, such as Lea’s very important research in 1933 on the radiative capture of the neutron on the proton and the subsequent results obtained by Chadwick and Goldhaber on the inverse phenomenon, the photodisintegration of the deuteron.

We also intend to continue the study of the scientific and academic careers of some of the “minor” characters of Via Panisperna. A case study is that of Gian Carlo Wick, from whom it is now possible to reconstruct the methods of his inclusion in the Via Panisperna staff in 1931, apparently “against” Ettore Majorana, and the painful methods of his call to Palermo after winning the national competition in 1937. The Segrè archives in Berkeley provide much information on Segrè’s action to validate Wick’s call to Palermo and Fermi’s action to make possible the alternative call to Padua. The situation was complicated by the possible interest of Majorana, then in Naples, in being called to Palermo. Another case study, based on new documents from the British secret services, concerns Franco Rasetti’s failure to take part in the Tube Alloys military project organised by the British in Canada in parallel with and in collaboration with the Manhattan Project. The research on Aldo Pontremoli will continue with reference to his participation in the polar expedition of the airship “Italia” and his scientific activity at the Physics Institute of Rome. Finally, special attention will be paid to the scientific activity of Marie Curie, her three visits to Italy between 1911 and 1931 and her influence on the development of nuclear physics research in Rome.


  • Dipartimento di Fisica, Università di Genova 
  • Dipartimento di Fisica, Sapienza Università di Roma 
  • Dipartimento di Filosofia e Scienze dell’educazione, Università di Torino 
  • Dipartimento di Informatica, Università di Verona 
  • Deputazione di Storia Patria per le Province Parmensiù
  • F. Guerra, N. Robotti, “The evolution of nuclear physics: from the discovery of radioactivity to fission and beyond”, capitolo del volume Cambridge History of the Nuclear Age, opera collettiva, in pubblicazione.(Cambridge University Press), 2023 
  • F.Guerra, N.Robotti, “Tecniche sperimentali all’Istituto di Fisica dell’Università di Pisa al tempo della laurea di Enrico Fermi”, Quaderni di Storia della Fisica, 28, 39-60 (2022) 
  • N. Robotti, “The discovery of the electron: J-J-Thomson 1897”, Il Nuovo Saggiatore, 38 (2022), 9-24 
  • N. Robotti, “With a source so small to fit in one hand: Fermi and the discovery of neutron-induced radioactivity”, in Società italiana degli storici della fisica e dell’astronomia: Atti del XLI Convegno annuale (Arezzo, 6-9 settembre 2021), Pisa University Press, Pisa 2022, p. 174 
  • M. Leone, “History of physics for physics education: challenges, opportunities and research directions”, in Società italiana degli storici della fisica e dell’astronomia: Atti del XLI Convegno annuale (Arezzo, 6-9 settembre 2021), Pisa University Press, Pisa 2022, pp. 253-262
  • Nadia Robotti (Dipartimento di Fisica, Università di Genova) 
  • Francesco Guerra (Dipartimento di Fisica, Sapienza Università di Roma)
  • Matteo Leone (Dipartimento di Filosofia e Scienze dell’educazione, Università di Torino) 
  • Francesca Monti (Dipartimento di Informatica, Università di Verona)
  • Emanuela Colombi (Deputazione di Storia Patria per le Province Parmensi)
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