Saturday, January 18, 2014

"'If his name's not Wagner, my name's not Farmer.'"

     Enrico Fermi, vouching for Eugene Wigner at a high-security American checkpoint during World War II.
     Fermi and I had been given real American names for the war.  Mine was 'Eugene Wagner' and Enrico's was 'Henry Farmer.'  One day we were driving together along a high-security road.  At the checkpoint, the military guard asked my name.  I said, 'Wigneroh, excuse me please!Wagner.'  The guard could not help but notice my Hungarian accent.  He regarded me with suspicion and asked sternly:  'Is your name really Wagner?' 
     What could I say?  I had no idea.  But Enrico saved me.
     The recollections of Eugene P. Wigner as told to Andrew Szanton (New York and London:  Plenum Press, 1992), 237.  The two physicists worked together on the Manhattan Project.

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