Olivia Fermi on the Neutron Trail

Olivia Fermi


My journey started as a personal inquiry into the legacy of my grandparents Laura Fermi, writer and environmental pioneer and Enrico Fermi, Nobel laureate, theoretical and experimental nuclear physicist.

Quickly, I realized –the pride and shame– I felt at this mixed legacy are conflicting emotions common to most of us.

The Neutron Trail calls me to visit the people and places most impacted by our shared nuclear legacy. Some of these places I’ve explored more than once, others are yet to come.
Rome, where Enrico pioneered the use of slow neutrons, a pre-cursor to the first nuclear reactors. Chicago and Fermilab. New Mexico and the site of the first atomic bomb test. Japan, where the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Oak Ridge National Labs in Tennessee, where uranium was purified in secret during World War II and where today, open science prevails.

The stories I hear move me to continue inquiring on the Neutron Trail. I talk with scientists, some are Nobel laureates, who worked side by side with Enrico; environmental activists; historians; and downwinders: those who have suffered from the toxic waste stream products of atomic bomb tests, working and living with nuclear facilities.

I want to hear your stories… from youth, elders, artists, writers, leaders, parents – whoever is interested in knowing more about how we arrived at the current nuclear predicament and what we might do to ensure a safe and healthy future for our species and our planet.


I believe inquiry leads to understanding, creativity and new solutions. If we could each of us be a little bit smarter, a tiny bit wiser and take a few more actions – a LOT could change.

Our survival is at stake and our situation is complex. We need everyone’s commitment to the most healthy, loving and creative future possible. We need your wisdom and your compassionate action in the world now.

Let’s all agree to leave a living legacy for our children’s children 1,000 generations from now.