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David N. Schwartz – How Fermi Became Fermi

October 23, 4:15 pm - 6:15 pm

428 Pupin Hall, Columbia University

David N. Schwartz, independent scholar

Enrico Fermi was one of the most significant figures of 20th century physics, with major contributions across a wide range of sub-disciplines. How did Fermi become Fermi? Drawing on research undertaken in preparation for his forthcoming biography of Fermi, “The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age” (Basic Books, December 5, 2017) David N. Schwartz will discuss the development of Fermi as a physicist; the role of nature, nurture, and historical circumstance in his career; and the characteristics behind both his strengths and his weaknesses. Are great physicists born, do they make themselves, or do others make them? How does the accident of one’s birth influence a career like Fermi’s? What was it that enabled Fermi to continue to contribute to the field well beyond the age when many great physicists are content to rest on their previous achievements?

This event is free and open to the public. The Physics Department colloquia are held on Mondays at 4:15pm in 428 Pupin Hall.  Prior to the colloquia Coffee Hour is served starting at 3:30pm on the 7th floor in 705 Pupin.

For questions, please contact the Colloquium organizer: Brian Metzger,

David N. Schwartz holds a PhD in political science from MIT and is the author of two previous books. He has worked at the State Department Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, and at Goldman Sachs in a variety of roles in both London and New York. He lives in New York with his wife, Susan. His father, Melvin Schwartz, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988, was on the Columbia physics faculty from 1958 to 1966, and returned as the first I.I. Rabi professor of physics in 1994.

This event is sponsored by the Physics Department of Columbia University and is part of the Physics Department colloquia series.


October 23
4:15 pm - 6:15 pm
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