Jan. 4, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 8

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    Fermi Award to Ugo Fano

    Ugo Fano, Professor Emeritus in Physics and the James Franck Institute, has won the Enrico Fermi Award. The award will be presented by President Clinton in a White House ceremony in March.

    Fano, 83, is being honored for 60 years of research in atomic physics that helped lead to the development of lasers and explain the way light and atoms interact. Fano was an advanced student of Fermi's in Italy before they both emigrated to the United States in the late 1930s. Although Fermi came to the University in 1942, Fano did not become a member of the faculty here until 1966, more than a decade after Fermi's death.

    Fano is sharing the Fermi Award with chemist Martin Kamen (S.B.'33, Ph.D.'36), 82, who discovered the carbon-14 isotope. It was later found -- by University chemist Willard Libby, who subsequently won the Nobel Prize for his work -- that carbon-14 could be used to revolutionize the field of archaeological dating.

    "I am delighted that the Enrico Fermi Award -- which honors the name and work of one of the University of Chicago's most distinguished scientists -- will be presented to our faculty member Ugo Fano and our alumnus Martin Kamen," said President Sonnenschein.

    "Both made discoveries that changed our understanding of the physical world and affected our lives in very basic ways. On this campus, Ugo Fano has extended himself to his students and colleagues for nearly 30 years, in the same way his teacher, Enrico Fermi, did throughout his life," Sonnenschein added.

    Fano's great influence on atomic physics is shown by the several physical phenomena that are named after him, and by the fact that one of his research papers is the most widely cited paper in modern atomic physics.

    Although he became emeritus in 1982, Fano has remained active in research and teaching. He has led 26 graduate students to their Ph.D. degrees, including one student who graduated this spring and who submitted a paper with Fano last month on a new approach to calculations in atomic and molecular physics.

    Kamen received both his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry from Chicago before working at several universities in the Midwest and in California, where he is now retired.

    The Fermi Award honors Enrico Fermi, the Italian-born physicist who in 1942 led a group of scientists at the University to create the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. The award was approved by President Clinton on the recommendation of Hazel O'Leary, Secretary of the Department of Energy. The award was most recently given in 1994.