It’s somewhat of a risk, coauthoring a book with one’s spouse, but it turned out to be exhilarating. Not that we didn’t have tensions, but they were of the good sort: focusing on creating an accessible and compelling narrative. We wanted to tell a story that encompassed the whole man, not only Enrico Fermi’s primacy as a scientist but also his personal life, his struggles with politics and the ensuing moral dilemmas. The results seem to be very positive, at least according to reviews, but you can judge for yourself.
The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age is about an extraordinary immigrant to this country. A true genius. My prior book was about immigrants too, namely my parents, who also fled a totalitarian regime and embraced freedom in America. Both books planted me firmly in the world of physics, a world known to me since I grew up in the Atomic City of Los Alamos. My father was a physicist and my husband Gino Segrè is one.
But my career path was not physics. I have a doctorate in Policy Sciences and have been in a number of health policy positions, including Philadelphia’s Commissioner of Public Health. Later on I turned to teaching courses on health care disparities for sixteen years at the University of Pennsylvania and have been a visiting professor at Haverford College and lecturer at Oxford University.
My passions (other than my husband and children) are writing, enjoying chamber music and indulging in the great out-of-doors. Luckily we live in Philadelphia next to one of this country’s largest urban parks. And there are nine grandchildren to enjoy it with.
Bettina at her father’s hometown in Germany while researching her book on Steps of Courage: My Parents’ Journey from Nazi Germany to America
Co-authors Bettina and her husband, Gino Segrè