Once Fermi had to attend a meeting of the Academy of Sciences at the Palazzo di Venezia, which was strongly guarded because Mussolini himself was to address it. All other members arrived in large foreign-made limousines driven by uniformed chauffers, while Fermi drew up in his little Fiat. At the gate of the Palazzo he was stopped by two carabinieri who crossed their weapons in front of his little car and asked his business there. According to the story he told to the author of this book, he hesitated to say to the guards: "I am His Excellency Enrico Fermi," for fear that they would not believe him. Thus, to avoid embarrassment, he said: "I am the driver of His Excellency, Signore Enrico Fermi." "Ebbene," said the guards, "drive in, park, and wait for your master."
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Advent Calendar #20: Fermi's driver
Enrico Fermi had quite a dry sense of humor. George Gamow, in his book Thirty Years that Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory, relates the following story from the time when Fermi was a professor in Rome in the 1930s: