Milestone-Proposal:Enrico Fermi's major contribution to semiconductor statistics, Florence, Italy, 1926

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Docket #:2014-07

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation?

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has the IEEE Section(s) in which the plaque(s) will be located agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Enrico Fermi's Major Contribution to Semiconductor Statistics, 1924-1926

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi developed the quantum statistics that would be named after him while teaching at the School of Engineering of the University of Florence. The Fermi-Dirac statistics were a fundamental contribution to semiconductor physics and to the development of electronics.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

Italy Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Italy Section
Senior Officer Name: Dario Petri (formerly) Ermanno Cardelly (recently nominated)

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Italy Section
Senior Officer Name: Dario Petri (formerly) Ermanno Cardelly (recently nominated)

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Italy Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Dario Petri (formerly) Ermanno Cardelly (recently nominated)

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Giuseppe Pelosi
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

V. S. Marta, 3 50139 Florence, Italy (43°47'54.40"N, 11°15'14.26"E)

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. Prof. E. Fermi developed the mentioned theory when he taught at the students of the two-year preliminary course of Engineering of the University of Florence.

Since he was teaching at the School of Engineering of the University of Florence when he developed the theory, and because of the paramount importance of Fermi’s Statistics in semiconductors, and hence in electronic engineering, we propose the main hall of the School of Engineering for Plaque placement.

Passing through the chosen hall is necessary to go the the President’s Offices, to the thesis discussion room and to the elevators to many of the departments, hence of very high visibility.

The plaque will be mounted on the wall next to the Plaque enumerating the Presidents of the School since its foundation.

Are the original buildings extant?

The School of Engineering moved to a new building during its development and enlargement (1971). The original buildings are not used nor accessible to the public anymore.

Details of the plaque mounting:

The plaque will be mounted on the wall next to the Plaque enumerating the Presidents of the School since its foundation.

A photo of the proposed location is enclosed

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The School of Engineering is open to the public. The building has security personnel and alarms when it is closed.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

The University of Florence

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)


Before the introduction of Fermi–Dirac statistics in 1926, understanding some aspects of electron behavior was difficult due to seemingly contradictory phenomena. For example, the electronic heat capacity of a metal at room temperature seemed to come from 100 times fewer electrons than were in the electric current.[3] It was also difficult to understand why the emission currents, generated by applying high electric fields to metals at room temperature, were almost independent of temperature. The difficulty encountered by the electronic theory of metals at that time was due to considering that electrons were (according to classical statistics theory) all equivalent. In other words it was believed that each electron contributed to the specific heat an amount on the order of the Boltzmann constant k. This statistical problem remained unsolved until the discovery of F–D statistics. F–D statistics was first published in 1926 by Enrico Fermi[1] and Paul Dirac.[2] According to an account, Pascual Jordan developed in 1925 the same statistics which he called Pauli statistics, but it was not published in a timely manner.[4] According to Dirac, it was first studied by Fermi, and Dirac called it Fermi statistics and the corresponding particles fermions.[5] F–D statistics was applied in 1926 by Fowler to describe the collapse of a star to a white dwarf.[6] In 1927 Sommerfeld applied it to electrons in metals[7] and in 1928 Fowler and Nordheim applied it to field electron emission from metals.[8] Fermi–Dirac statistics continues to be an important part of physics.

The importance of the statistic is also attested in all semiconductor textbooks.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?


What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

This is a theoretical development which had several impacts in describing electron behavior. The most notable and highest technological impact of the theory is the development of semiconductor devices and industry. There is no similar contribution in this specific field.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

References. in brackets reference to the pertinent attachment:

E. Fermi, “Sulla quantizzazione del gas perfetto monoatomico,” Rend. Lincei (6) 3, 145-149 (1926), (reprinted in * pp. 181-185)

E. Fermi, “Zur Quantelung des idealen einatomigen Gases,” z. Physik 36, 902-912 (1926) (reprinted in * pp. 186-195) [P1] File:P1 1926 Zur Quantelung des idealen einatomigen Gases.pdf

  • reprinted in Collected Papers (Note e Memorie) Volume I Italy 1921-1938, E. Fermi (ed. E. Amaldi, H. L. Anderson E. Persico, F. Rasetti, C. S. Smith, A. Wattemberg and E. Segré)), University of Chicago, 1962, with notes and remarks.

P. A. M. Dirac, On the Theory of Quantum Mechanics, Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 1 October 1926 vol. 112 no. 762 pp. 661-677, doi: 10.1098/rspa.1926.0133 [P2] File:P2 Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A-1926-Dirac-661-77.pdf

H. Wilson, “The Theory of Electronic Semi-Conductors,” Proceedings of the Royal Society (London), A133, 1931, pp. 661-677. [P3] File:P3 Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A-1931-Wilson-458-91.pdf

J. Berdeen Nobel Lecture 1956, [P4] File:P4 1956 bardeen-Nobel-lecture.pdf

Giuseppe Pelosi, Massimiliano Pieraccini, and Stefano Selleri, “Enrico Fermi in Florence,” IEEE Antennas and Propagation Magazine, Vol. 55, No. 6, December 2013, pp. 272-276. [P5] File:P5 IEEE APM 55 6 2013 Fermi.pdf

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Supporting material. in brackets reference to the pertinent attachment:

University of Florence Yearbook scan showing E. Fermi as a teacher of “Meccanica Razionale” (Analytical Mechanics), and specifying that the course was required for the students of the School of Engineering [S1] File:S1 annuari UniFI 1925-1926.pdf

Photograph of main hall showing perspective placement [S2]

Main hall

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.