Enrico Fermi
Historical Figure
Nationality: United States (born in Italy)
Date of Birth: 1901
Date of Death: 1954
Cause of Death: Stomach cancer
Occupation: Physicist
Spouse: Laura Fermi
Children: Nella, Giulio
Professional Affiliations: Metallurgical Laboratory, University of Chicago
Fictional Appearances:
POD: May 30, 1942
Appearance(s): Direct
Type of Appearance: In the Balance
Upsetting the Balance
Joe Steele
POD: 1878;
Relevant POD: July, 1932
Novel or Story?: Both
Type of Appearance: Contemporary reference
Date of Death: 1946
Cause of Death: Execution by firing squad

Enrico Fermi (29 September 1901 - 28 November 1954) was an Italian physicist most noted for his work on the development of the first nuclear reactor, and for his contributions to the development of quantum theory, particle physics and statistical mechanics. He, his wife Laura Fermi, and their children emigrated to New York to escape the anti-Semitic laws promulgated by the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini which threatened Laura for her Jewish origins.

In the U.S., he was a critical figure in the development of the atomic bomb.

Enrico Fermi in Worldwar[]

Enrico Fermi was one of the scientists working on the US atomic bomb project at the University of Chicago when the Race invaded Earth. Fermi and his colleague, Leo Szilard worked out a proposal shortly after the invasion began to send two representatives from their lab to Washington, DC to convince the government of the importance of the project.[1] Both Gerald Sebring and Jens Larssen volunteered to go.

Some weeks later, he was allowed to interrogate Lizard POWs Ullhass and Ristin about the Race's knowledge of atomic weapons.[2] Not long after that, with Lizard ground forces threatening to take Chicago, he and the rest of the crew relocated to Denver.[3]. On that trek, he served as best man at the wedding of Sam Yeager and Barbara Larssen,[4] and he and his wife Laura were among the first people to learn that Barbara was pregnant and that her first husband, Jens Larssen, previously presumed dead, was still alive.[5]

Once in Denver, Fermi quickly became the project's liaison with General Leslie Groves.[6]. In just over a year, the team had produced its own bomb, "the Fat Lady".[7]

Enrico Fermi in Joe Steele[]

Enrico Fermi's (1901-1946) decision to move to the United States proved to be his undoing. In 1946, he was one of several physicists who was imprisoned and executed by dictatorial President Joe Steele for being a "wrecker". His wife's Jewish heritage was believed to be a factor in his death.[8]

Literary Comment[]

While Fermi met the same fate in both the short story and the novel, Fermi was executed as part of the so-called Professors' Plot in short story, whereas he was merely a "wrecker" in the novel. In addition, the idea that he was executed due to his wife's Jewish heritage was softened in the novel.


  1. In the Balance, pgs. 91-96.
  2. Id., at pgs. 295-299.
  3. Tilting the Balance, Chs 1-7, generally
  4. Id., pg. 88.
  5. Id., at 192-93.
  6. Upsetting the Balance, e.g., pgs. 14-15.
  7. Id., at pg. 410-12.
  8. Joe Steele, pg. 392, HC.