Physics in Perspective

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 58–90

Bruno Rossi and the Racial Laws of Fascist Italy

Article

Abstract

Bruno Rossi (1905–1993), one of the giants of 20th-century physics, was a pioneer in cosmic-ray physics and virtually every other aspect of high-energy astrophysics. His scientific career began at the University of Florence in 1928 and continued at the University of Padua until 1938, when the Fascist anti-Semitic racial laws were passed in Italy. He was dismissed from his professorship and was forced to emigrate, as described in unpublished letters and documents that display the international character of physics and physicists. His young bride Nora Lombroso, his love of physics, and the solidarity of the physics community gave him the courage to begin a new life in Copenhagen, Manchester, and in the New World at the University of Chicago, Cornell University, Los Alamos, and after the Second World War at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he became the center of a worldwide research network.

Keywords

Bruno Rossi Nora Lombroso Enrico Fermi Benito Mussolini Antonio Garbasso Sergio De Benedetti Walther Bothe Robert A. Millikan Arthur H. Compton Niels Bohr Hans A. Bethe Patrick M.S. Blackett Arcetri University of Florence University of Padua Niels Bohr Institute University of Manchester University of Chicago Cornell University Los Alamos Massachusetts Institute of Technology Fascism anti-Semitism racial laws Society for the Protection of Science and Learning Rossi coincidence circuit cosmic rays mesotrons X-ray astronomy solar wind internationalism of physics history of physics 

References

  1. 1.
    Bruno Rossi, Moments in the Life of a Scientist (Cambridge, New York, Port Chester, Melbourne, Sydney: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. xv.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Philip Morrison, “Foreword” in Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), pp. xi-xiii, on p. xi.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 6. For a short autobiographical note, see Bruno B. Rossi, “Bruno Benedetto Rossi,” in Scienziati e Tecnologi contemporanei. Vol. II (Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore 1974), pp. 436-438. For a biographical account, see George W. Clark, “Bruno Benedetto Rossi 13 April 1905-21 November 1993,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 144 (2000), 329-341. For pertinent historical works, see Salvo D‘Agostino, “Alcune considerazioni sull‘opera di Bruno Rossi e della scuola fiorentina di fisica nelle ricerche sui raggi cosmici,” Annali dell’Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze 9, No. 2 (1984), 69-83; M. De Maria, G. Malizia, and A. Russo, “La nascita della fisica dei raggi cosmici in Italia e la scoperta dell‘effetto Est–Ovest,” Giornale di Fisica 33 (1992), 207-228; Martha Cecilia Bustamante, “Bruno Rossi au début des annèes trente: une étape décisive dans la physique des rayons cosmiques,” Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Sciences 44 (1994), 92-115; Arturo Russo, “Bruno Rossi e la scuola di Firenze,” in Antonio Casella, Alessandra Ferraresi, Giuseppe Giuliani, and Elisa Signori, ed., Una difficile modernità: Tradizioni di ricerca e comunità scientifiche in Italia 1880-1940 (Pavia: La Goliardica Pavese srl, 2000), 287-298; Matteo Leone, Angelo Mastroianni, and Nadia Robotti, “Bruno Rossi and the Introduction of the Geiger-Müller Counter in Italian Physics: 1929–1934,” Physis 42 (2005), 453-480.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    W. Bothe and W. Kolhörster, “Die Natur der Höhenstrahlung,” Die Naturwissenschaften 17 (1929), 271–273; idem, “Das Wesen der Höhenstrahlung,” Zeitschrift für Physik 56 (1929), 751–777.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bruno Rossi, Cosmic Rays (New York: McGraw–Hill, 1964, and London: George Allen and Unwin, 1966), p. 43.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Daniel J. Kevles, The Physicists: The History of a Scientific Community in Modern America. With a New Preface by the Author (Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 179.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    For a comprehensive study, see Roger H. Stuewer, The Compton Effect: Turning Point in Physics (New York: Science History Publications, 1975).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 10.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Leone, Mastroianni, and Robotti, “Bruno Rossi” (ref. 3), pp. 457-464.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bruno Rossi, “Method of Registering Multiple Simultaneous Impulses of Several Geiger’s Counters,”Nature 125 (April 26, 1930), 636.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Thomas H. Johnson, “The Azimuthal Asymmetry of the Cosmic Radiation,” The Physical Review 45 (1933), 834-835.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Luis Alvarez and Arthur H. Comption, “A Positively Charged Component of Cosmic Rays,” Phys. Rev. 43 (1933), 835-836.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    G. Lemaitre and M.S. Vallarta, “On Compton’s Latitude Effect of Cosmic Radiation,” Phys. Rev. 43 (1933), 87-91.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 36.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    B. Rossi, “Nachweis einer Sekundärstrahlung der durchdringenden Korpuskularstrahlung,” Physikalische Zeitschrift 33 (1932), 304-305.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bruno Rossi, “Absorptionsmessungen der durchdringenden Korpuskularstrahlung in einem Meter Blei,” Naturwiss. 20 (1932), 65.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Bruno Rossi, “La curva di assorbimento della radiazione corpuscolare penetrante,” La Ricerca Scientifica 3 (1932), 435-449; idem, “Über die Eigenschaften der durchdringenden Korpuskularstrahlung in Meeresniveau,” Zeit. f. Phys. 82 (1933), 151-178.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    W. Heisenberg, “Theoretische Überlegungen zur Höhenstrahlung,” Annalen der Physik 13 (1932), 430-452, on 444-449; reprinted in Gesammelte Werke Collected Works. Series A/Part II. Original Scientific Papers Wissenschaftliche Originalarbeiten, ed. W. Blum, H.P. Dürr, and H, Rechenberg (Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong: Springer-Verlag, 1989), pp. 250-272, on pp. 268-269.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 15.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Bruno Rossi, “Early days in cosmic rays,” Physics Today 34 (October 1981) 34–41, on 41. The paper in question no doubt was Rossi, “Nachweis einer Sekundärstrahlung” (ref. 15).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Reale Accademia d’Italia Fondazione Alessandro Volta, Atti dei Convegno di Fisica Nucleare Ottobre 1931-IX (Roma: Reale Accademia d’Italia, 1932-X).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kevles, The Physicists (ref. 6), pp. 179-180.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Bruno Rossi, “Il problema della radiazione penetrante,” in Reale Accademia d’Italia, Atti dei Convegno (ref. 21), pp. 51-64, especially pp. 53-60.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    W, Bothe, “Bemerkungen über die Ultra-Korpuskularstrahlung,” in ibid., pp. 153-154.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 18.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
  27. 27.
    E. Fermi and B. Rossi, “Azione sul campo magnetico terrestre sulla radiazione penetrante,” Atti della Reale Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei. Rendiconti 17 (1933), 346–350; reprinted in Enrico Fermi, Collected Papers (Note e Memorie). Vol. I. Italy 1921-1938, ed. E. Amaldi, H.L. Anderson, E. Persico, F. Rasetti, C.S. Smith, A. Wattenberg, and E. Segrè (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press and Roma: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, 1962), pp. 509-513.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Harold C. Urey, F.G. Brickwedde, G.M. Murphy, “A Hydrogen Isotope of Mass 2,” Phys. Rev. 39 (1932), 164-165.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    James Chadwick, “Possible Existence of a Neutron,” Nature 129 (1932), 312.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    E.O. Lawrence and M.S. Livingston, “The Production of High Speed Light Ions Without the Use of High Voltages,” Phys. Rev. 40 (1932), 19-35; J.D. Cockcroft and E.T.S. Walton, “Experiments with High Velocity Positive Ions. I. Further Developments in the Method of Obtaining High Velocity Positive Ions,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London [A] 136 (1932), 619-630; both papers reprinted in M. Stanley Livingston, ed., The Development of High-Energy Accelerators (New York: Dover, 1966), pp. 118-134 and 11-23.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Carl D. Anderson, “The Apparent Existence of Easily Deflectable Positives,” Science 76 (1932), 238-239.ADSCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Carl D. Anderson interview by Harriet Lyle, January 9 - February 8, 1979, Archives of the California Institute of Technology, p. 33.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    P. Redondi, G. Sironi, P. Tucci, and G. Vegni, ed., The Scientific Legacy of Beppo Occhialini (Bologna: Società Italiana di Fisica and Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2006), pp. xii-xv, 20-31. For a detailed account on Blackett and Occhialini’s collaboration, see Mary Jo Nye, Blackett: Physics, War, and Politics in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 2004), pp. 47-53.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    P.M.S. Blackett and G.P.S. Occhialini, “Some Photographs of the Tracks of Penetrating Radiation,” Proc. Roy. Soc. Lon. [A] 139 (1933), 699-727 (includes Plates 21-24).Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    J. F. Carlson and J. R. Oppenheimer, “On Multiplicative Showers,” Phys. Rev. 51 (1937), 220–231; H. J. Bhabha and W. Heitler, “The Passage of Fast Electrons and the Theory of Cosmic Showers,” Proc. Roy. Soc. Lon. [A] 159 (1937), 432–458.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Rossi, “Absorptionsmessungen” (ref. 16), p. 65.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Carlson and Oppenheimer, “Multiplicative Showers” (ref. 35), p. 220.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Seth H. Neddermeyer and Carl D. Anderson, “Note on the Nature of Cosmic-Ray Particles,” Phys. Rev. 51 (1937), 884–886, on 886.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    B. Rossi, Rayons Cosmiques (Paris: Hermann et Cie, 1935).Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), pp. 38-39.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Ibid., p. 39.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Ibid., p. 34.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Ibid. For a description of the instruments in the Padua Institute, see Giulio Peruzzi and Sofia Talas, “Bruno Benedetto Rossi, the Italian Years, 1928-1938,” in Alessandro Pascolini, ed., The Scientific Legacy of Bruno Rossi: A Scientific Colloquium in Honour of Bruno Rossi on the 100th Anniversary of his Birth, Padova-Venezia, September 16-17, 2005 (Padova: Università degli Studi di Padova, 2006), pp. 89-109, especially 94-104.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Klaus Hentschel, ed., Physics and National Socialism: An Anthology of Primary Sources (Basel, Boston, Berlin: Birkhäuser Verlag, 1996), pp. 21-24.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Karl Loewenstein, Hitler’s Germany: The Nazi Background to War (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939), pp. 112-114.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Quoted in Uwe Hossfeld and Lennart Olsson, “Freedom of the mind got Nature banned by the Nazis,” Nature 443 (2006), 271.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Emilio Segrè, A Mind Always in Motion: The Autobiography of Emilio Segrè (Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: University of California Press, 1993), p. 132.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Author interview with Nora Rossi, July 26, 2007, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Laura Fermi, Atoms in the Family: My Life with Enrico Fermi (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1954); reprinted (New York: American Institute of Physics and Tomash Publishers, 1987), pp. 119-120.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), pp. 39-40.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Edoardo Amaldi, “The Case of Physics,” in Giovanni Battimelli and Giovanni Paoloni, ed., 20th Century Physics: A Selection of Historical Writings by Edoardo Amaldi (Singapore, New Jersey, London, Hong Kong: World Scientific, 1998), pp. 168-190, on p. 178.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” Institute Archives and Special Collections, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries, Cambridge, Massachusetts (hereafter MIT Archives).Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Ruth Moore, “Niels Bohr as a Political Figure,” in A.P. French and P. J. Kennedy, ed., Niels Bohr: A Centenary Volume (Cambridge Mass. and London: Harvard University Press, 1985), pp. 253-260, on p. 255.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    “Al Ch. mo Prof. Bruno Rossi; Oggetto: Difesa della razza nella Scuola fascista; Compio il dovere di avvertirVi che, in applicazione dell’art. 3 del Regio Decreto Legge 5 settembre 1938 XVI, n. 1390, recante provvedimenti per la difesa della razza nella scuola fascista, a datare dal 16 ottobre corrente siete sospeso dal servizio. Il Rettore (F. to [Carlo] Anti).” Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Nora Lombroso, “As for me…,” in Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), pp. 159-175, on p. 162.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 40.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Ibid.,p. 40Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Rossi to Bohr, April 1955, Rossi Papers, Box 23, Folder “Back Correspondence,” July 1955-June 1960, MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Bruno B. Rossi, “The decay of ‘mesotrons’ (1939–1943): experimental particle physics in the age of innocence,” in Laurie M. Brown and Lillian Hoddeson, ed., The birth of particle physics (Cambridge, London, New York, New Rochelle, Melbourne, Sydney: Cambridge University Press, 1983), pp. 183-205, on p. 184.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Weizman to Rossi, October 27, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Issachar Unna, “The Genesis of Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,” Physics in Perspective 2 (2000), 336-380, especially 338-343.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Rossi to Weizman, November 2, 1938, Weizman Archive, Rehovot, Israel. I thank Professor Nissan Zeldes, Racah Institute of Physics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for kindly sending me a copy of this letter.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Blackett to Rossi, October 10, 1938. Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Correspondence, documents 1938,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Thomson to Rossi, November 1, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Vallarta to Rossi, November 1, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Correspondence, documents 193,” MIT Archives. Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Vallarta to Rossi, January 17, 1939. Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Correspondence, documents 1938,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Compton to Rossi, November 12, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Compton to Rossi, December 2, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Rossi to Compton, undated, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Letters and Documents 1938-1939,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Blackett to Rossi, November 17, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials, MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Blackett to Rossi, November 24, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Thomson to Rossi, December 22, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Letters and Documents 1938-1939,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Bloch to Rossi, November 29, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    Capodilista to Rossi, December 3, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Letters and Documents 1938-1939,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Bethe to Rossi, undated, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    National Fascist Party to Rossi, December 7, 1938, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Correspondence, documents 1938,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Document released on January 14, 1939, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Bruno Rossi, “Further Evidence for the Radioactive Decay of Mesotrons,” Nature 142 (December 3, 1938), 993. This Letter is dated November 4, and Rossi gave his address as Universitetets Institut for teoretisk Fysik, København. Rossi’s Letter was preceeded by one by P.M.S. Blackett of the same title and dated November 7 at The University, Manchester; see ibid., p. 992.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Laura Fermi, Atoms in the Family (ref. 49), p. 115.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    The Nobel Foundation, Nobel Lectures including Presentation Speeches and Laureates’ Biographies. Physics 1922-1941 (Amsterdam, London, New York: Elsevier Publishing Company, 1965), p. 251.Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    Laura Fermi, Atoms in the Family (ref. 49), p. 139.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Rossi, “The decay of ‘mesotrons’” (ref. 59), p. 184.Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    Rossi to Simpson, March 22, 1939, Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 45.Google Scholar
  85. 85.
  86. 86.
    Their talks are summarized in P.M.S. Blackett and B. Rossi, “Some Recent Experiments on Cosmic Rays,” Reviews of Modern Physics 11 (1939), 277-281.Google Scholar
  87. 87.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 46.Google Scholar
  88. 88.
    Rossi, “Further Evidence” (ref. 78), p. 993; Blackett, ibid., p. 992.Google Scholar
  89. 89.
    Bruno Rossi, “The Disintegration of Mesotrons,” Rev. Mod. Phys. 11 (1939), 296-303, on 296.Google Scholar
  90. 90.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 47.Google Scholar
  91. 91.
    Blackett to Rossi, July 18, 1939. Rossi Papers, Box 28, Folder “Documents, Immigration and Naturalization Materials,” MIT Archives.Google Scholar
  92. 92.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 49.Google Scholar
  93. 93.
    Rossi, “The decay of ‘mesotrons’” (ref. 59), p. 57.Google Scholar
  94. 94.
    Roger H. Stuewer, “Nuclear Physicists in a New World: The Émigrés of the 1930s in America,” Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 7 (1984), 23–40, on 23.Google Scholar
  95. 95.
    Author interview of Nora Rossi, July 26, 2007 (ref. 48).Google Scholar
  96. 96.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 49.Google Scholar
  97. 97.
    Bruno Rossi, H. Van Norman Hilberry, and J. Barton Hoag, “The Disintegration of Mesotrons,” Phys. Rev. 56 (1939), 837-838, on 838.Google Scholar
  98. 98.
    Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 66.Google Scholar
  99. 99.
    Ibid., p. 68.Google Scholar
  100. 100.
    Ibid., p. 99.Google Scholar
  101. 101.
    Author interview of Nora Rossi, September 23, 2006, Rome, Italy; Rossi, Moments (ref. 1), p. 100.Google Scholar
  102. 102.
    Fermi to Amaldi, January 24, 1946, Amaldi Archive, Physics Department, Rome University Sapienza, Box 1, Folder 1, Subfolder 5.Google Scholar
  103. 103.
    H.S. Bridge, C. Dilworth, B. Rossi, F. Scherb, and E.F. Lyon, “An Instrument for the Investigation of Interplanetary Plasma,” Journal of Geophysical Research 65 (1960), 3053–3055; H.S. Bridge, C. Dilworth, A.J. Lazarus, E.F. Lyon, B. Rossi, and F. Scherb, “Direct Observations of the Interplanetary Plasma, Journal of the Physical Society of Japan 17 Supplement A-II (1962), 553–559; A. Bonetti, H.S. Bridge, A.J. Lazarus, E.F. Lyon, B. Rossi, and F. Scherb, “Explorer X Plasma Measurements, Space Research 3 (1963), 540–552.Google Scholar
  104. 104.
    Riccardo Giacconi and Bruno Rossi, "A ‘Telescope’ for Soft X-Ray Astronomy," J. Geophys. Res. 65 (1960), 773-775; Riccardo Giacconi, Herbert Gursky, Frank R. Paolini, and Bruno B. Rossi, “Evidence for X Rays From Sources Outside the Solar System,” Physical Review Letter 9 (1962), 439-443; R. Giacconi, H. Gursky, J.R. Waters, G. Clark, and B. Rossi, “Two Sources of Cosmic X-Rays in Scorpius and Sagittarius,” Nature 204 (1964), 981–982.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RomeItaly

Personalised recommendations