One of the great physicists, Fermi won the Nobel Prize in 1938, at the age of 37. No sooner did he receive his prize than he fled from his home in fascist Italy to New York City, taking US citizenship.
Eventually, Fermi and the other nuclear scientists had convinced President Roosevelt that the Nazis could and would produce a nuclear bomb, which led the US government to grant them virtually unlimited funding.
On Dec. 2, 1942, Fermi’s reactor ー under the squash court at the University of Chicago ー went critical to become the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction.
Fermi would eventually work on the Manhattan Project, to develop nuclear weapons and the Atomic Energy Commission.
Like many early nuclear scientists, Fermi died of cancer at the young age of 53.
Eventually, in 1951, Walter Zinn connected a Fermi reactor to the rest of the equipment needed to generate electricity. This created the first working nuclear power plant.