Quantum and Nuclear

A ‘defective’ physicist

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 16-19 IOP RESOURCES

One of Fermi’s assistants disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Bruno Pontecorvo was born in Pisa and went on to work with Fermi on slow-neutron experiments. He moved to Paris to work with the Curies and then contributed to the Manhattan Project. After the war, Pontecorvo joined the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in the UK and was awarded a chair at the University of Liverpool. However, prior to taking up his post, he disappeared whilst holidaying in Italy. Five years later, Pontecorvo resurfaced in the Soviet Union, having defected to the Communist state via Sweden and Finland. It is speculated that he may have acted as a Soviet spy prior to his defection.


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