He's the Nobel Laureate who helped develop the world's first nuclear reactor. He, along with J. Robert Oppenheimer, is known as the father of the atomic bomb. He is also the former American Physical Society president we honor with our occasional Fermi Problem Friday posts. There's a national laboratory (Fermilab) and even an element on the periodic table (fermium) named after him. So what does a man with such credentials leave behind in a time capsule? Nothing too exciting, it turns out.
Inside the copper box were found:
1. A 1948-49 University of Chicago directory
2. University of Chicago announcements from May 25, 1948
3. An architect’s sketch of the Research Institutes building where the capsule was placed
4. A booklet: “The New Frontier of Industry — Atomic Research”
5. A second booklet: “The Institute for Nuclear Studies, The Institute for the Study of Metals, The Institute of Radiobiology and Biophysics”
6. A road map
7. Airline schedules
8. Train timetables
9. A list of 1948-49 postdoctoral fellows from the Institute of Radiobiology and Biophysics
A 1927 buffalo nickel was also found in the same hole as the time capsule.
The most fascinating trinkets were the road map and train and plane brochures, which showed how the price of an airline ticket, for example, has risen over the last 62 years. These items, though, aren't any more noteworthy than the types of things your grandfather might have stuffed into a time capsule decades ago.
Though, perhaps, the contents of the box weren't Earth-shattering physics wonders or even secret musings from a scientist who helped shape the middle of the century, they are a gentle reminder that we're all human, even a man as remarkable as Enrico Fermi.
For more photos of the time capsule being opened, visit the University of Chicago's story about the capsule.