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Nella Fermi Weiner

Nella Fermi Weiner (1931-1995) was an artist and educator, and the daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Enrico Fermi and author Laura Fermi. Nella was born in Rome, Italy, and began her education there. In 1938, the Fermis escaped Mussolini’s Italy for the United States, first traveling to Sweden for Enrico’s Nobel Prize ceremony. The family initially came to New York, then lived in the suburb of Leonia, New Jersey. When the Manhattan Project began, they moved to Chicago, and later to Los Alamos.

At Los Alamos, Nella and her brother Giulio went to a small, poorly-equipped school where each classroom housed two grades. They lived in a spartan apartment furnished with military supplies. The inconveniences of life at the site became badges of honor after the war, when the children realized the significance of the work that had gone on there. Nella also recalled later how the reasons for the secrets of the past few years (mysterious trips, codenames) suddenly became clear to her.

After the war, she studied at the University of Chicago, where her father had done some of his Manhattan Project work. She studied fine arts at the University of Iowa, and went on to teach at the University of Chicago Lab School, her alma mater from before their move to Los Alamos. She went back to Chicago later to get her doctorate in educational psychology. Towards the end of her life, she became a family financial planner. She had two children, Paul Weiner and Olivia Fermi (born Alice Weiner). Olivia now runs a website devoted to her family’s legacy. Nella passed away in Chicago in 1995.

Nella Fermi Weiner's Timeline

  • 1931 Jan 31st Born in Rome, Italy.
  • 1938 Dec 6th Left Italy for her father's Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, eventually settling in New York, New York.
  • 1939 Moved to Leonia, New Jersey.

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