Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Library Society lecturer's 'The Last Man Who Knew Everything,' details the life of the 'Father of the Nuclear Age'

Life and times of Enrico Fermi

Posted by Katie Molpus on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 4:14 PM

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On Thurs. April 26, the Charleston Library Society is hosting a lecture with Dr. David N. Schwartz, author of The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age, a biography published in December of 2017.

In Schwartz’s biography, he captures the complex nature of the last man who knew everything — at least about physics. Enrico Fermi was at the forefront of the groundbreaking first nuclear chain reaction, accomplished by a team from the University of Chicago in 1942.

Following anti-Semitic laws in Italy that threatened his wife Laura, Fermi and his family escaped to New York after he won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1938. Despite his work on the Manhattan Project, Fermi was constantly forced to prove his loyalty to his new country when the U.S. entered WWII. Schwartz uses previous memoirs and interviews to capture Fermi’s life beyond his scientific contributions and detail the little known picture of his personal world as an immigrant, father, and husband.

Through the book, Schwartz hopes to renew interest in Fermi’s life, especially for readers with little background in Physics.

“He led a dramatic and fascinating life, and was himself a fascinating and complex character. Physicists still revere him for his many scientific achievements. And yet he is virtually unknown to the American public,” Schwartz notes in a recent press release. “When I realized that the last English-language biography of him was written in 1970, I decided to write a book that would change that.”

click to enlarge Biographer David N. Schwartz. - PROVIDED
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  • Biographer David N. Schwartz.
After receiving his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Schwartz, who now resides in New York, worked for the US Department of State, the Brookings Institution, and Goldman Sachs. He has been widely published, writing on topics like US strategic nuclear weapons policy, NATO, and foreign policy.

Thursday’s lecture, like the book, will focus on the arc of Fermi’s life. The event, taking place at the Charleston Library Society, is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Attendees can RSVP by phone at (843) 723-9912 or by email at dreutter@charlestonlibrarysociety.org. 

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