Ugo Fano

Ugo Fano

Infobox Scientist
box_width = 300px
name = Ugo Fano

image_size = 300px
caption = Ugo Fano (1912-2001). Photo taken in 1978.
birth_date = birth date|1912|7|28|mf=y
birth_place = Turin, Italy
death_date = death date and age|2001|2|13|1912|7|28|mf=y
death_place = Chicago, Illinois
residence = flag|USA
citizenship = flag|USA|name=American
nationality =
ethnicity = Italian-Jewish
fields = Physicist and Biophysicist
workplaces = University of Chicago
Carnegie Institute
National Bureau of Standards
University of Rome
University of Leipzig
alma_mater = University of Turin
doctoral_advisor = Enrico Persico
academic_advisors = Enrico Fermi
Werner Heisenberg
doctoral_students = Chris Greene
Charles W. Clark
Gerald Gabrielse
notable_students =
known_for = Feshbach–Fano partitioning
Fano resonance
Fano factor
Fano effect
Fano–Lichten mechanism
Beutler-Fano profile
author_abbrev_bot =
author_abbrev_zoo =
influences = Giulio Racah
Emilio Segre
Salvatore Luria
influenced =
awards = Enrico Fermi Award (1995)

footnotes = His father was Gino Fano, he is the brother of Robert Fano, and he is the cousin of Giulio Racah.

Ugo Fano (July 28, 1912February 13, 2001) was an Italo-American physicist, a leader in theoretical physics in the 20th century.

Childhood and origin

He was born in Turin, Italy.

His father was Gino Fano, a prominent mathematician, and his brother, Robert Fano, is an eminent professor emeritus of electrical engineering at MIT. Fano's wife, Lilla Fano, a teacher, co-authored with him a well-known book on atomic and molecular physics, "Physics of Atoms and Molecules" (1959). Appendix III of this book presents an elementary description of the collision of two charged particles, which was used by Richard Feynman in lectures that have been published as . An expanded version of this book was subsequently published as "Basic Physics of Atoms and Molecules" (1972). Fano's cousin, Giulio Racah, made great contributions to the quantum theory of angular momentum (well-known as Racah algebra), and wrote a concise monograph with Fano on the subject ("Irreducible Tensorial Sets", 1959).

Universitary studies

Ugo Fano earned his doctorate in mathematics at the University of Turin in 1934, under Enrico Persico, with a thesis entitled "Sul Calcolo dei Termini Spettrali e in Particolare dei Potenziali di Ionizzazione Nella Meccanica Quantistica" ("On the Quantum Mechanical Calculation Spectral Terms and their Extension to Ionization"). As part of his PhD examination he also made two oral presentations entitled: "Sulle Funzioni di Due o Più Variabili Complesse" ("On the functions of two or more complex variables") and "Le Onde Elettromagnetiche di Maggi: Le Connessioni Asimmetriche Nella Geometria Non Riemanniana."

Rome stay and collaboration with Enrico Fermi

Fano worked with Enrico Fermi in Rome, where he was a senior member of 'I ragazzi di Via Panisperna'. It was during this period that with the urging of Fermi, Fano developed his seminal theory of resonant configuration interaction (Fano resonance profile), which led to two papers (U. Fano, Nuovo Cimento 12, 154 (1935) [ (English translation)] , and U. Fano, [ Phys. Rev., 124, 1866] (1961)). This latter publication is one of the most cited articles published in The Physical Review.

Collaboration with Werner Heisenberg

Fano spent 1936–37 with Werner Heisenberg in Leipzig.

Leaving Italy

He immigrated to the United States in 1939. His initial work in the U.S. was on bacteriophages and pioneering work in the study of radiological physics, specifically, the differences in the biological effects of X-rays and neutrons.

National Institute of Standards and Technology

After serving a stint at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds during World War II, he joined the staff of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS - now the National Institute of Standards and Technology), where he was hired as the first theoretical physicist on the NBS staff.

Chicago University

He served there until 1966, when he joined the faculty of physics at the University of Chicago. There he trained, until the early 1990s, a large body of graduate students and postdoctoral research associates who now occupy leading positions in theoretical atomic and molecular physics in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

Scientific legacy

Ugo Fano had a major impact in sustained work over six decades on atomic physics and molecular physics, and earlier on radiological physics. Most areas of current research in these subjects reflect his fundamental contributions. Such phenomena as the Fano resonance profile, the Fano factor, the Fano effect, and the Fano–Lichten mechanism bear his name.


Ugo Fano was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society and the Royal Society of London.


He was awarded the Enrico Fermi Award of the U.S. Department of Energy in 1995. His most-cited work is the 1961 paper mentioned above.

External links

* [ Obituary in "Nature"]

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  • Fano resonance — In physics, a Fano resonance, in contrast with a Breit–Wigner resonance, is a resonance for which the corresponding profile in the cross section has the so called Fano shape, i.e. it can be fitted with a function proportional to::{(q Gamma… …   Wikipedia

  • Fano, Ugo — ▪ 2002       Italian born American physicist (b. July 28, 1912, Turin, Italy d. Feb. 13, 2001, Chicago, Ill.), was a pioneering nuclear physicist who helped identify the hazards of radioactivity for humans and whose research provided the… …   Universalium

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