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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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History of Physics
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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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the institute

our history

The beginnings: a school of modern physics

The Enrico Fermi Historical Physics Museum and Research Centre (CREF) is located in the building that once housed the historic Royal Physical Institute in Via Panisperna, Rome.

Inaugurated in 1881 under the direction of Pietro Blaserna, a physicist from Gorizia, the Institute became a true “creative environment”. It revolutionised relations with students, who could finally use the instruments and laboratories to carry out independent and original research.

The idea, shared by his successor, Orso Mario Corbino, was to create in Rome a modern and advanced school of physics, in step with the great research centres of the time: from Cambridge to Göttingen, from Copenhagen to Paris, Berlin, Leiden and beyond.


The 1930s: the boys of Via Panisperna

It was here that Enrico Fermi, who had been appointed Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1926, organised and prepared the conditions for the birth of the group of young scientists who became famous in the 1930s as the “Boys of Via Panisperna” (Franco Rasetti, Emilio Segrè, Edoardo Amaldi, Bruno Pontecorvo, Oscar D’Agostino and Ettore Majorana).

Under his scientific leadership, during an exceptional period for Italian science, the first experiments were carried out on the phenomenon of radioactivity induced by neutrons, fundamental research for the understanding of the structure of the atomic nucleus, the success of which was crowned by the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938.

At the same time, the Institute was moved to the new university town of “Sapienza”, and the building via Panisperna was used for a different purpose: from an international scientific centre to the archive of the State Police, then incorporated into the Viminale complex.

A committee for Panisperna

The Palazzina became operational again thanks to a committee of interest. 

Thanks to this joint effort and to the great passion that supported it, in 1999 Law no. 62 of 15 March 1999 established the Historical Museum of Physics and the Enrico Fermi Study and Research Centre.

The transformation process into a scientific institution was long and complex due to the peculiar location of the headquarters within the Viminale complex and the long renovation. There was an initial definition period of CREF’s strategies and organisational structure, but the real start of activities was in November 2019, with the official handover of the new headquarters.

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