Author of The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age and Steps of Courage: My Parents Journey from Nazi Germany to America.


Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age

Enrico Fermi is unquestionably among the greats of the world’s physicists, the most famous Italian scientist since Galileo. Called the Pope by his peers, he was regarded as infallible in his instincts and research. His discoveries changed our world; they led to weapons of mass destruction and conversely to life-saving medical interventions.

This unassuming man struggled with issues relevant today, such as the threat of nuclear annihilation and the relationship of science to politics. Fleeing Fascism and anti-Semitism, Fermi became a leading figure in America’s most secret project: building the atomic bomb. The last physicist who mastered all branches of the discipline, Fermi was a rare mixture of theorist and experimentalist. His rich legacy encompasses key advances in fields as diverse as comic rays, nuclear technology, and early computers.

In their revealing book, The Pope of Physics, Gino Segré and Bettina Hoerlin bring this scientific visionary to life. An examination of the human dramas that touched Fermi’s life as well as a thrilling history of scientific innovation in the twentieth century, this is the comprehensive biography that Fermi deserves. Learn more…

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The Pope of Physics by Bettina Hoerlin

[A] superb biography. . .[the authors] have produced a definitive study of Fermi's life and work.

ANDREW CRUMEYThe Wall Street Journal

By placing stunning scientific advances into historical context, this engaging biography of Nobel Prize–winning Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) captures the life and times of one of the 20th century’s most creative and hard-working scientists…fans of pop science and history will thoroughly enjoy this entertaining and accessible biography of a scientist who deserves to be better understood.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLYstarred and boxed review

Superbly written. This will set the gold standard for books on Enrico Fermi.

MICHIO KAKUTheoretical physicist and author of Physics of the Future and The Future of the Mind

In the hands of Segrè and Hoerlin, enriched with fresh material from his inner circle, Fermi’s life becomes a brilliant―and true―historical novel.

FRANK WILCZEKNobel Prize-winning physicist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Steps of Courage by Bettina Hoerlin


My Parents’ Journey from Nazi Germany to America

T his true love story plays out against some of the most profound markers of the 20th century: Hitler’s Germany, the American emigrant experience and growing nuclear threats of the Cold War. It revolves around an extraordinary couple who met and fell in love in 1934 during the ominous beginnings of Hitler’s Germany. He, a handsome world record-holding climber and aspiring physicist, was a staunch anti-fascist; she, part of Munich’s intellectual and musical inner circles, was a stunning widow whose husband had been murdered by the Nazis. The ensuing passage of the Nuremberg Laws prohibited their relationship – that between an Aryan and a Jew. To have a future together, Herman Hoerlin and Kate Tietz Schmid knew they needed to flee Germany.

Based on a treasure trove of over 500 love letters, this book by their daughter Bettina describes their flight to America (with the help of a top Nazi), coping with their status as “enemy aliens” and eventually moving to the Atomic City of Los Alamos, where Hoerlin worked at the forefront of the first nuclear test ban treaty. Learn more…

Bettina Hoerlin


Bettina Hoerlin, co-author with her husband Gino Segrè, of The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age grew up in the secret city of Los Alamos.  She taught health care disparities at the University of Pennsylvania for sixteen years and has also been a visiting lecturer at Haverford College and Oxford University.  Her career in health policy and administration included serving as health commissioner of Philadelphia.  Her previous book was Steps of Courage: My Parents’ Journey from Nazi Germany to America.

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