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Emilio G. Segrè (February 1, 1905 – April 22, 1989)

Emilio Gino Segrè an Italian-born American physicist, co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1959 for the discovery of the antiproton, an antiparticle having the same mass as a proton but
opposite in electrical charge.

Segrè studied engineering at the University of Rome La Sapienza before taking up physics in 1927. In 1932, Segrè was appointed assistant professor of physics at the University of Rome and worked there until 1936. From 1936 to 1938 he was Director of the Physics Laboratory at the University of Palermo. He discovered technetium, the first man-made element. It is formed when molybdenum is irradiated with deuterium nuclei. It is a radioactive metal that has been used as a tracer and anti-corrosive in steel.

In 1938, Segrè was fired from his position as Administrator of the Physics Laboratory at the University of Palermo, because the fascist government of Italy under Benito Mussolini had deemed that Jewish scientists should not be allowed to hold such posts. He then came to America, where he worked under Ernest Lawrence at the University of California’s Berkeley Radiation Lab. In 1940, He and his associates discovered the element astatine. Later, with another group, he discovered the isotope plutonium-239,.It was used in the first atomic bomb and in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

From 1943 to 1946 he worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a group leader for the Manhattan Project. In April 1944, he found that Thin Man, the proposed plutonium gun-type nuclear weapon would not work because of the presence of plutonium-240 impurities. He was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1944 and was professor of physics at Berkeley (1946–72).

He is best known for his 21 September 1955 discovery with Owen Chamberlain of the antiproton, negatively charged proton that exists as the antiparticle of a proton , Which helped to support Paul Dirac’s theory or antimatter and earned the Chamberlain and Segrè the Nobel Prize for Physics later in 1959. He was appointed professor of nuclear physics at the University of Rome in 1974.

Segrè died of a heart attack at the age of 84 while out walking near his home in Lafayette. Segrè was also a photographer, took many photos documenting events and people in the history of modern science, which were donated to the American Institute of Physics after his death. He wrote several books, including Experimental Nuclear Physics (1953), Nuclei and Particles (1964), Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), and two books on the history of physics, From X-rays to Quarks: Modern Physicists and Their Discoveries (1980) and From Falling Bodies to Radio Waves (1984). After winning the Nobel Prize, Segrè wrote the entry on the proton for the 1960 printing of the 14th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

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