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Enrico Fermi and the Nuclear Chain Reaction

Featuring information about the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction (chain reaction) and the role of Enrico Fermi. Includes links to resources in the University of Chicago Library collections and to a variety of web resources.

Postal stamps

A number of countries, including the United States, have issued postage stamps honoring Enrico Fermi.  You can view these via an image search on Google.

Perricone, Mike, "Fermi Stamp: A Chain Reaction." Fermi News. V. 24, No.2, Feb. 2, 2001.

"U of C puts stamp on Fermi celebration." by - The Chicago Maroon. 

Nuclear Energy sculpture

Nuclear Energy, a 12-foot tall bronze sculpture by the British abstract artist Henry Moore (1898-1986), was unveiled at 3:36 p.m. on December 2, 1967, precisely 25 years after scientists at the University of Chicago achieved the first controlled self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. The sculpture stands on the site of the University's old Stagg Field West Stands, where the experiment took place in a former squash court. The team of scientists was led by Enrico Fermi.

The abstract sculpture is suggestive of the shape of a human skull or an atomic mushroom cloud. Henry Moore himself hoped those viewing it would "go around it, looking out through the open spaces, and that they may have a feeling of being in a cathedral."

Site of sculpture on campus map 

70th anniversary news item

Interactive picture

Photos of the creation of Nuclear Energy (click to see larger images):

Assembling Nuclear Energy  Polishing Nuclear Energy  Installation of Nuclear Energy 

Assembly        Polishing      Installation

Dedication of Nuclear Energy   Site view of Nuclear Energy with plaques

Dedication            View at site

Photos of commemorative awards and events

Click on thumbnail photos for larger image and more information.

4th anniversary of chain reaction group   10th anniversary of chain reaction symposium  Dedication of Research Institutes

4th anniversary     10th anniversary        Dedication of RI

Enrico Fermi Presidential AwardThe Enrico Fermi Presidential Award

Anniversaries, symposia and more

LP cover of To Fermi with Love

To Fermi - with Love. Argonne, Ill. : Argonne National Laboratory, [1974?]
(2 sound discs : analog, 33 1/3 rpm, mono. ; 12 in.)
Side one (11.4 MB, .mp3) 

Side two (11.2 MB, .mp3) 

Side three (11.6 MB, .mp3) 

Side four (8.6 MB, .mp3)

75th anniversary observations

How the first chain reaction changed science: Legacy of 1942 breakthrough on campus includes advances in many fields

Pyrotechnic artwork commemorates 75th anniversary of first nuclear reaction

University of Chicago commemorates first nuclear reaction on Dec. 1 and 2, 2017

Other anniversary observations

Fermi Remembered: A Symposium

Enrico Fermi: The Life of a Scientist

Atomic year 25 : the story of CP-1 : a silver anniversary documentary on the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. Argonne, Ill. : Argonne National Laboratory, [1967?]  (1 sound disc : analog, 33 1/3 rpm ; 12 in.)

The Nuclear Chain Reaction: Forty Years Later / edited by Robert G. Sachs. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1984

The Chain Reaction: December 2, 1942 and After
An Exhibition in the Department of Special Collections,University of Chicago Library
October 1, 1992 - December 4, 1992

Enrico Fermi and his legacy in nuclear physics: a website contest for U.S. and Italian students (commemorating the 100th anniversary of Fermi's birth)

Mertens, Richard, "Beyond the Bomb," University of Chicago Magazine, Volume 94, Number 2 (covers symposium held on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Fermi's birth)

Article from the University of Chicago News Office on the 70th anniversary of the chain reaction

"Dawn of the Nuclear Age" CP-1 70th Anniversary Symposium (Argonne National Laboratory)

Contact Information

Andrea Twiss-Brooks
Director, Humanities and Area Studies
Chemistry and Geophysical Sciences Librarian
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