Physics in Perspective

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 160–177 | Cite as

The Disappearance and Death of Ettore Majorana

  • Francesco GuerraEmail author
  • Nadia Robotti


At the end of March 1938, Ettore Majorana disappeared under still mysterious circumstances while he was Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Naples. We exploit new archival documents that provide evidence that without any doubt he was deceased before September 1939. These include documents pertaining to the foundation of a Fellowship in his name, announced on November 3, 1939, in the journal, The Missions of the Society of Jesus, and documents pertaining to the Police and Vatican inquires after his disappearance. We conclude by discussing the biographical sketch of Majorana that his uncle Giuseppe Majorana wrote before his death in 1940.


Ettore Majorana Salvatore Majorana Calatabiano Salvatore Majorana Quirino Majorana Giuseppe Majorana Fabio Majorana Gilberto Bernardini Giuseppe Bottai Father Ettore Caselli Enrico Fermi Giovanni Gentile, Jr. Benito Mussolini Oliviero Savini Nicci University of Palermo University of Naples The Society of Jesus Vatican State Bulletin of Inquires Frontier List history of physics 



We thank Roger H. Stuewer for his careful and thoughtful editorial work on our paper.


  1. 1.
    Francesco Guerra and Nadia Robotti, “Ettore Majorana’s Forgotten Publication on the Thomas-Fermi Model,” Physics in Perspective 10 (2008), 56–76, on 67–69; idem, Ettore Majorana: Aspects of his Scientific and Academic Activity (Pisa: Edizioni della Scuola Normale Superiore, 2008), pp. 48–53.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Quoted in Guerra and Robotti, Ettore Majorana (ref. 1), p. 52.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Quirino to Giuseppe Majorana, November 27, 1937, Majorana Fund, Regional University Library Giambattista Caruso, Catania, Sicily, Box 183.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Decree of [Giuseppe] Bottai, December 6, 1938, reproduced in Guerra and Robotti, Ettore Majorana (ref. 1), Figure 83, p. 222; partially translated, p. 57.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid., p. 57.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Francesco Guerra and Nadia Robotti, “La Borsa di Studio della Rivista ‘Missioni’: un punto fermo sulla vicenda di Ettore Majorana” “[The Fellowship of the Journal ‘Missioni’: a firm point in the case of Ettore Majorana],” Il Nuovo Saggiatore 28 (2012), 86–88; expanded version at website <>.
  7. 7.
    Father Caselli to Salvatore Majorana, September 22, 1939, Historical Archives of the Department of Physics of the University of Rome “La Sapienza,” Box Materiale pervenuto.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bernardini to Gentile, undated, reproduced in Guerra and Robotti, Ettore Majorana (ref. 1), Figure 80, pp. 218–219.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Stefano Roncoroni, “Il promemoria ‘Tunisi’: un nuovo tassello del caso Majorana [The ‘Tunisi’ memorandum: a new piece of information on the case of Ettore Majorana],” Nuovo Sag. 27 (2011), 58–68.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Savini Nicci memorandum, March 31, 1938, reproduced in Guerra and Robotti, Ettore Majorana (ref. 1), Figure 78, pp. 215–216.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Telegram No. 10639, March 31, 1938, reproduced in ibid., Figure 79, p. 217.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ettore Majorana, Matriculation document, January 20, 1938, reproduced in ibid., Figure 74, p. 209.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Quirino to Giuseppe Majorana, March 14, 1939, Majorana Fund (ref. 3), Box 186.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Giuseppe Majorana, “A salute and an expectation,” Majorana Fund (ref. 3), Box 218.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of Rome “La Sapienza”, INFN, Section of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of PhysicsUniversity of Genova, INFN, Section of GenovaGenoaItaly

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