The mysterious disappearance of Ettore Majorana

In 1938, Ettore Majorana boarded a ship to Naples, and never got off at the other end. Since then people have been debating what happened to the physicist, and whether or not he had a larger part in the history of physics than he’s given credit for.

Enrico Fermi, the brilliant physicist who developed the first nuclear reactor and won the Nobel prize for his explorations of radioactivity, might possibly have been eclipsed in his own time by one of his colleagues. Five years younger than Fermi, Ettore Majorana was a rising star in physics when he disappeared in 1938, at the age of 32. Rumors have been swirling around his disappearance since the moment he failed to step off the boat that he was spotted boarding in March – a boat set for Naples.

It’s no surprise that Majorana was the center of such a mystery. During his life, he was famously enigmatic. There is evidence that he came up with the proof of the neutron before the official confirmation by James Chadwick, but did not publish his findings. Majorana, it is said, was sure that someone else would discover them and unlike almost everyone else in his profession he hated the spotlight. Fermi, though only slightly older, took it upon himself to mentor Majorana, including hounding him into publishing his paper about some particles, like photons, being their own antiparticles. This brought attention to Majorana; attention he responded to by working in near-complete isolation for years.

Finish the story here The mysterious disappearance (or not) of the physicist who discovered neutrons (or not)..

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