, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 56-76
Date: 27 Mar 2008

Ettore Majorana’s Forgotten Publication on the Thomas-Fermi Model

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We analyze the forgotten communication of Ettore Majorana (1906–1938?) on the Thomas-Fermi statistical model of the atom, which he presented on December 29, 1928, during the XXII General Meeting of the Italian Physical Society in Rome, and which was published in Il Nuovo Cimento, the Society’s journal, in 1929. His communication was not mentioned subsequently in any of the numerous publications of Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) and his group in Rome, nor in any of the later accounts of Majorana’s life and work. We place Majorana’s contribution within the context of contemporary research on the subject, point out its influence on the final formulation of the Thomas-Fermi statistical model by Fermi and Edoardo Amaldi (1908–1989) in 1934, and discuss Majorana’s other scientific contributions before his mysterious disappearance in 1938.

Francesco Guerra is Professor of Theoretical Physics in the Department of Physics at the University of Rome “La Sapienza.” His main fields of research are quantum-field theory, statistical mechanics of complex systems, and the history of nuclear physics. Nadia Robotti is Professor of History of Physics in the Department of Physics at the University of Genoa. Her main fields of research are the history of atomic physics, quantum mechanics, and nuclear physics.