The via Panisperna Girls. Laura Capon Fermi and Ginestra Giovene Amaldi between Science and Family (1926-1945)

Author/s Giovanni Cavagnini
Publishing Year 2023 Issue 2023/1 Language Italian
Pages 22 P. 55-76 File size 236 KB
DOI 10.3280/MON2023-001003
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Until now, historiography has paid little attention to the role of women in the adventure of the “Via Panisperna boys” – the group of young scientists from the University of Rome who, led by Enrico Fermi, made an essential contribution to nuclear physics with the discovery of the property of slow neutrons (1934). The article uses a gender perspective to shed new light on Fermi’s group through the cases of Laura Capon (1907-1977) and Ginestra Giovene (1911-1994). Contrary to what appears from the “boys’” memoirs, these women were not just the wives of Fermi and his collaborator Edoardo Amaldi, but pioneers of popular science in Fascist Italy. While their husbands and the other “boys” were involved in universi-ty research and teaching, the “girls” used their scientific training to explain the work and discoveries of physicists to the general public. Their collaboration was interrupted by the racial laws of 1938, which prompted Capon (who was Jewish) to flee to the United States with her family; however, the experience gained in the 1930s would allow her and Giovene to become accomplished writers after the end of World War II.

Keywords: “Via Panisperna boys”, popular science, fascism, physics, gender history, women in science

Giovanni Cavagnini, Le ragazze di via Panisperna. Laura Capon Fermi e Ginestra Giovene Amaldi tra scienza e famiglia (1926-1945) in "MONDO CONTEMPORANEO" 1/2023, pp 55-76, DOI: 10.3280/MON2023-001003