First Nuclear Reaction

First Nuclear Reaction

Italian-born American physicist Enrico Fermi demonstrates the first controlled nuclear fission reaction in an unused squash court in a basement at the University of Chicago. Two years earlier, Fermi, along with Hungarian-born physicist Leo Szilard and German-born physicist Albert Einstein, wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt warning of the danger of Nazi development of an atomic weapon. Roosevelt approved a U.S. atomic program; the “Manhattan Project” to build an atomic bomb began in 1942. Fermi, who won the 1938 Nobel Prize in physics, scored one of the program’s early triumphs with his demonstration of a nuclear reaction. In July 1945, the United States successfully tested the world’s first atomic bomb, and in August two such bombs were dropped on Japan. Fermi died in 1954, and the element fermium was named in his honor one year later.