Enrico Fermi was born in Rome, Italy on Sept. 29, 1901. He married Laura Capon in 1928 and from 1927 to 1938 he was Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Rome. He took his family with him to Stockholm, Sweden in 1938 to accept the Nobel Prize for Physics. But they never returned to Italy and instead used the trip to escape from Benito Mussolini's fascist government. They emigrated to the U.S. where Enrico eventually joined other scientists in Chicago who were working on the Manhattan Project (code name for production of America's atomic bomb).
The atomic age was officially born in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 2, 1942. Enrico Fermi supervised the first controlled nuclear chain reaction for forty minutes inside the cinder block walls of a squash court. The building was under the cement football stands at Amos Alonzo Stagg Field at 5801 S. Ellis Avenue on the campus of the University of Chicago. Fermi and his wife lived in Chicago from 1942 on. They became American citizens in 1944. Enrico then taught as a member of the faculty at the University of Chicago for the last ten years of his life until his premature death from cancer on Nov. 18, 1954 at age 53. He is buried at the historic Oak Woods Cemetery on the corner of 67th and Cottage Grove. The Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago and the FermiLab in Batavia, Illinois, are both named in his honor.