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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index S > Emilio Segrč Quotes

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Emilio Segrč
(1 Feb 1905 - 22 Apr 1989)

Italian-American physicist who shared (with Owen Chamberlain) the 1959 Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of the antiproton, an antiparticle having the same mass as a proton but opposite in electrical charge.

Science Quotes by Emilio Segrč (8 quotes)

If some nuclear properties of the heavy elements had been a little different from what they turned out to be, it might have been impossible to build a bomb.
— Emilio Segrč
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 149.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (101)  |  Building (51)  |  Difference (214)  |  Element (137)  |  Heavy (16)  |  Impossibility (50)  |  Nuclear (25)  |  Plutonium (3)  |  Property (96)  |  Uranium (16)

In an enterprise such as the building of the atomic bomb the difference between ideas, hopes, suggestions and theoretical calculations, and solid numbers based on measurement, is paramount. All the committees, the politicking and the plans would have come to naught if a few unpredictable nuclear cross sections had been different from what they are by a factor of two.
— Emilio Segrč
Epigraph in Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), 8.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (101)  |  Building (51)  |  Calculation (68)  |  Committee (11)  |  Difference (214)  |  Enterprise (22)  |  Factor (35)  |  Hope (146)  |  Idea (457)  |  Measurement (149)  |  Nuclear (25)  |  Number (188)  |  Paramount (6)  |  Plan (74)  |  Politics (81)  |  Suggestion (24)  |  Theory (585)  |  Unpredictable (10)

In scientific matters there was a common language and one standard of values; in moral and political problems there were many. … Furthermore, in science there is a court of last resort, experiment, which is unavailable in human affairs.
— Emilio Segrč
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 149. Segrč refers to the issues regarding the consequences of mastering the release of atomic energy.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (101)  |  Common (96)  |  Court (16)  |  Experiment (548)  |  Human Affairs (5)  |  Language (161)  |  Matter (288)  |  Moral (104)  |  Politics (81)  |  Problem (382)  |  Resort (5)  |  Scientific (181)  |  Standard (45)  |  Value (188)

She [Chien-Shiung Wu] is a slave driver. She is the image of the militant woman so well known in Chinese literature as either empress or mother.
— Emilio Segrč
As quoted in 'Queen of Physics', Newsweek (20 May 1963), No. 61, 20. Note: Chien-Shiung Wu was Segrč’s student.
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (228)  |  Women Scientists (13)

The explosion of the Alamogordo bomb ended the initial phase of the MED project: the major technical goal had been achieved …. The feat will stand as a great monument of human endeavor for a long time to come.
— Emilio Segrč
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 148-149. (MED = Manhattan Engineering District, code name for the atomic bomb development project.)
Science quotes on:  |  Achievement (132)  |  Alamogordo (2)  |  Atomic Bomb (101)  |  Endeavor (35)  |  Explosion (26)  |  Feat (4)  |  Goal (93)  |  Monument (20)  |  Trinity (7)

The most striking impression was that of an overwhelming bright light. I had seen under similar conditions the explosion of a large amount—100 tons—of normal explosives in the April test, and I was flabbergasted by the new spectacle. We saw the whole sky flash with unbelievable brightness in spite of the very dark glasses we wore. Our eyes were accommodated to darkness, and thus even if the sudden light had been only normal daylight it would have appeared to us much brighter than usual, but we know from measurements that the flash of the bomb was many times brighter than the sun. In a fraction of a second, at our distance, one received enough light to produce a sunburn. I was near Fermi at the time of the explosion, but I do not remember what we said, if anything. I believe that for a moment I thought the explosion might set fire to the atmosphere and thus finish the earth, even though I knew that this was not possible.
— Emilio Segrč
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 147.
Science quotes on:  |  Accommodation (6)  |  Amount (22)  |  April (4)  |  Atmosphere (69)  |  Atomic Bomb (101)  |  Brightness (9)  |  Condition (130)  |  Darkness (36)  |  Daylight (7)  |  Earth (582)  |  Explosion (26)  |  Explosive (16)  |  Enrico Fermi (18)  |  Finish (17)  |  Fire (125)  |  Flabbergast (2)  |  Flash (29)  |  Fraction (10)  |  Glasses (2)  |  Impression (54)  |  Light (301)  |  Measurement (149)  |  Overwhelming (19)  |  Possibility (101)  |  Second (44)  |  Sky (108)  |  Spectacle (12)  |  Test (101)

To my knowledge there are no written accounts of Fermi’s contributions to the [first atomic bomb] testing problems, nor would it be easy to reconstruct them in detail. This, however, was one of those occasions in which Fermi’s dominion over all physics, one of his most startling characteristics, came into its own. The problems involved in the Trinity test ranged from hydrodynamics to nuclear physics, from optics to thermodynamics, from geophysics to nuclear chemistry. Often they were closely interrelated, and to solve one’it was necessary to understand all the others. Even though the purpose was grim and terrifying, it was one of the greatest physics experiments of all time. Fermi completely immersed himself in the task. At the time of the test he was one of the very few persons (or perhaps the only one) who understood all the technical ramifications.
— Emilio Segrč
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 145
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (101)  |  Dominion (8)  |  Experiment (548)  |  Enrico Fermi (18)  |  Geophysics (3)  |  Greatest (55)  |  Grim (4)  |  Hydrodynamics (2)  |  Nuclear Physics (4)  |  Optics (15)  |  Problem (382)  |  Ramification (4)  |  Terror (18)  |  Test (101)  |  Thermodynamics (28)  |  Trinity (7)

[After the flash of the atomic bomb test explosion] Fermi got up and dropped small pieces of paper … a simple experiment to measure the energy liberated by the explosion … [W]hen the front of the shock wave arrived (some seconds after the flash) the pieces of paper were displaced a few centimeters in the direction of propagation of the shock wave. From the distance of the source and from the displacement of the air due to the shock wave, he could calculate the energy of the explosion. This Fermi had done in advance having prepared himself a table of numbers, so that he could tell immediately the energy liberated from this crude but simple measurement. … It is also typical that his answer closely approximated that of the elaborate official measurements. The latter, however, were available only after several days’ study of the records, whereas Fermi had his within seconds.
— Emilio Segrč
In Enrico Fermi: Physicist (1970), 147-148.
Science quotes on:  |  Approximation (18)  |  Atomic Bomb (101)  |  Displacement (5)  |  Dropping (3)  |  Energy (200)  |  Experiment (548)  |  Explosion (26)  |  Enrico Fermi (18)  |  Flash (29)  |  Measurement (149)  |  Paper (55)  |  Second (44)  |  Shock Wave (2)  |  Trinity (7)

See also:
  • 1 Feb - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Segrč's birth.
  • A Mind Always in Motion: The Autobiography of Emilio Segrč, by Emilio Segrč. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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