[Editor's note: While Emilio G. Segre, who died last year, is perhaps best known for artificially creating the first antiproton - an achievement for which he shared the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physics with Owen Chamberlain - the Italian nuclear physicist played a pivotal role in many other scientific firsts, most notably the 1943 discovery of plutonium and the subsequent confirmation that the element was fissionable. Both of these events led to his participation in the Manhattan Project, which in 1945 culminated with the creation and use of the first atomic bomb. At the time of these discoveries, Segre was officially an "enemy alien" in the United States, where he came to escape the anti-Semitic decrees of Mussolini.

Born into a wealthy family of intellectuals, professionals, and businessmen in 1905, Segre studied engineering before switching to physics. At the age of 23, he became the first student to earn his...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!