Emilio G. Segrè: The History of Physics
Emilio Segrè (1905–1989) became, in 1928, the first student to earn a doctorate in physics at The University of Rome under Enrico Fermi. A decade later, restrictive fascist laws against Jews in academic positions in Italy turned Segrè into an academic refugee — he settled in Berkeley where, in 1955, with colleague Owen Chamberlain, he proved the existence of the antiproton, a negatively charged proton that destroys itself as well as the matter it strikes. In 1959, Segrè and Chamberlain shared the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on antiproton.
From 1943 to 1946, Segrè worked as a group leader on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. In his 1970 book about Fermi, Segrè recalled a crucial atomic test in the New Mexico desert: "In a fraction of a second, at our distance, one received enough light to produce a sunburn. I was near Fermi at the time of the explosion, but I do not remember what we said, if anything. I believed that for a moment I thought the explosion might set fire to the atmosphere and thus finish the earth, even though I knew that this was not possible."
It always seems an opportunity that should not be missed when a major participant in the world of science takes the time and makes the effort to write about his field for a general audience. At Dover we were very pleased to acquire from Emilio Segrè's heirs the rights to publish his outstanding two-volume history of physics written for the general reader and historian of science: From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves: Classical Physicists and Their Discoveries and From X-Rays to Quarks: Modern Physicists and Their Discoveries, both reprinted by Dover in 2007.
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“Segrè’s description of Fermi’s early life and his involvement with and commitment to physics is extremely interesting... Segrè understands and describes very clearly the outstanding characteristics of Fermi’s theoretical work: clarity and completeness... Segrè has succeeded admirably in describing Fermi’s entire scientific career, and this book is strongly recommended.” — M. L. Goldberger, Science
“We must thank Emilio Segrè for this authoritative, revealing and inspiring book. It covers in a masterly fashion the most exciting thirty years of modern physics and the character and activities of one of its greatest contributors.” — Nature
“A rich, well-rounded portrait of [Fermi] the scientist, his methods, intellectual history, and achievements. Explaining in nontechnical terms the scientific problems Fermi faced or solved, Enrico Fermi, Physicist contains illuminating material concerning Fermi’s youth in Italy and the development of his scientific style.” — Physics Today
“All that might be hoped for in a biography of one Nobel Prize winner in physics by another has been realized in Emilio Segrè’s biography of his friend, Enrico Fermi... A truly masterly drawing of Fermi’s character, along with his physics and the events through which he moved, Segrè has provided us with a brilliant appreciation of one of the most pre-eminent figures of modern physics.” — Physics Bulletin
“This excellent biography, written by one of the original group who worked with him during the 1930s at Rome, catches beautifully the style and spirit of its subject... With Fermi’s passing the age of the universal experimental and theoretical physicist is gone. Segre’s book tells the story of this heroic age of physics and of its principal actor; it is a delight to read, and I recommend it heartily.” — American Scientist
“Here we meet the man at work and we see the meticulous scientist... This book also shows us another facet of Fermi: that of the conscientious scientist torn between his love of pure research and his love of teaching.” — V. Barocas, Annals of Science
“Segrè is a sensitive biographer, responsive to all problems that can plague the creative scientist; he shows, above all, Fermi’s dedication, zeal, and extraordinary talents. Segrè has provided more than sympathy. Much that is new about Fermi’s youth in Italy appears here... [A] very rewarding book... Every physicist will want to read this biography, along with every reader who has an interest in intellectual developments during the 1920-1960 era.” — J. Z. Fullmer, The Ohio Journal of Science