Milano   7/3/2005 - 13/3/2005

Spazio Oberdan - viale Vittorio Veneto 2 - Milano

Hypothesis about a Missing Atomic Physicist

  1. Director: Leandro Castellani
  2. Editor: Leandro Castellani
  3. Photography: Rino Filippini
  4. Music: Guido e Maurizio De Angelis
  5. Starring:
    Orso Maria Guerrino,
    Mariella Zanetti,
    Pietro Biondi
  6. Production: RAI e T.V.C.
  7. Italy
  8. 90 min.
  9. 1972

Ettore Majorana was born in Catania (Sicily) in 1906. At the age of seven he was already a child prodigy and by 31 he was appointed Professor Emeritus in Theoretical Physics at the University of Naples. Enrico Fermi, arguably the best Italian physicist since Galileo, once stated: “There are many categories of scientists, people of second and third rank who make great discoveries that are fundamental to the development of science. But then there are the geniuses, like Galileo and Newton. Well, Ettore Majorana was one of these...” Majorana had a much less flattering opinion of himself, however. “As a professor, I am of little worth; as a scientist, I do not believe in what I do; as a man, I am a nullity.” He was an exceptional individual with a profound and restless character. So intense was his personality that he became the protagonist of one of Italy’s most famed mysteries. In 1938 he disappeared after boarding a steamship in Naples headed for Palermo. Theories abound on what happened: an escape? Suicide? Kidnapping? Yet one question persists: why? Perhaps Majorana had been the first to realize the destructive potential of the splitting of the atom, a topic he was studying with a team of young scientists in a laboratory in via Panisperna in Rome. The entire scientific community was upset by his mysterious disappearance. Even Mussolini mobilized his troops in the hope of finding the brilliant scientist, but it was all to no avail. For director Leandro Castellani, Ipotesi sulla scomparsa di un fisico atomico served as a sort of ideal closure to the many television programs centered on the relationship between science and society. While the film portrays Majorana as a historic figure, it also reflects Castellani’s view of him as a sort of metaphor of the modern scientist who is aware of where his research might lead and is very troubled by this knowledge.

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