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EPS Historic Sites - Fermi fountain

On April 19-20, 2012 the 'Second Conference of Fermi Centre Projects' took place in Rome, Italy, in the temporary headquarter of the Centre (Museo Storico della Fisica e Centro Studi e Ricerche "Enrico Fermi), presently located on the premises of the Italian Ministry of Interior.

The Conference focused on the presentation of the results and perspectives of advanced interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research projects underway at the Centre. About 250 scientists, researchers and university professors, took part in this gathering, together with a number of high school teachers and students. Since its creation, under the presidency for over 10 years of Antonino Zichichi (also President of the European Physical Society in 1978-1980), the Fermi Centre has implemented important research projects, promoted the dissemination of scientific culture and given top priority to talented young scientists.

A plenary session took place in the morning of April 20, in the Conference Hall of the Ministry of Interior. The session hosted a solemn ceremony designating the 'Fermi fountain' as an EPS Historic Site in the presence of the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, and of the Minister of Interior, Annamaria Cancellieri, the Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Lorenzo Ornaghi, and the Undersecretary of State for Education, University and Research, Elena Ugolini.

The 'Fermi fountain', i.e. the goldfish fountain of the Physics Institute of Panisperna Street in Rome, presently under refurbishment, and in the foreground the EPS commemorative plaque

© EPS - right-click to enlarge image

The Fermi Centre is one of the youngest Italian scientific institutions and it will soon take up permanent residence in the former Physics Institute of Panisperna Street, in Rome, still embedded in the building complex of the Ministry of Interior, and presently under refurbishment. The 'Fermi fountain' is in the garden of this Institute and is the goldfish pond where Fermi performed his world famous experiment.

The plenary session was opened by Minister of Interior Cancellieri, and by the President of the European Physical Society and of the Fermi Centre, Luisa Cifarelli. A keynote speech illustrating the fundamental scientific research work by Fermi in Rome at the Institute of Panisperna Street in the thirties of last century was delivered by A. Zichichi. The crucial, symbolic importance of 'Fermi fountain' in the history of physics was highlighted in his address. Minister Cancellieri underlined how the involvement of the EPS, testifying the determination since 1968 of European scientists to strengthen the cultural unity of science in Europe, significantly enhanced the importance of the event.

The morning session of the Conference – which had of course a very large media coverage – ended up with a visit of the Head of State to the 'Fermi fountain', the restoration of which has almost been completed, and with the unveiling of a commemorative marble plaque sealing the fountain as Historic Site of the European Physical Society, with a brief but significant citation reading as follows:

Using the water of the goldfish fountain of his Institute, Enrico Fermi established for the first time, in the afternoon of 22 October 1934, the crucial role of hydrogenous substances on neutron induced radioactivity, thus opening the way to the use of slow neutrons in nuclear fission chain reactions.

The 'Fermi fountain' was the first EPS Historic Site entitlement event since the beginning of this initiative (see EPN 43/3 2012, Editorial), the first example of 'scientific heritage' that the EPS would like to signal and stamp.

The entitlement of 'Fermi fountain', under heavy rain. In the foreground, the jet of the fountain. Under the awning, L. Cifarelli illustrating the plaque to the President of the Italian Republic G. Napolitano (on her left) in the presence of various authorities (partially hidden behind her, A. Zichichi)

© EPS - right-click to enlarge image
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