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For Slow Neutrons, Slow Pay: Enrico Fermi’s Patent and the US Atomic Energy Program, 1938-1953

By Simone Turchetti


This essay focuses on the history of one of the “atomic patents.” The patent, which described a process to slow down neutrons in nuclear reactions, was the result of experimental research conducted in the 1930s by Enrico Fermi and his group at the Institute of Physics, University of Rome. The value of the patented process became clear during World War II, as it was involved in most of the military and industrial applications of atomic energy.\ud This ignited a controversy between Fermi and U.S. government representatives over royalties to be paid for use of the process during and after the war. The controversy sheds new light on the role that the management of patents played in the context of the Manhattan Project and in the postwar U.S. nuclear program, encompassing issues of power and economic influence in the relationship between scientists, the military, and public administrators

Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:4609

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