Chronology of the life and work


5 August
Ettore Majorana was born in Catania to Fabio Massimo (1875-1934) and Salvatrice (Dorina) Corso (1876-1965), fourth of five sons (Rosina, Salvatore, Luciano, Ettore and Maria).


The Majorana family moved from Sicily to Rome.


He left school (Liceo-Ginnasio Statale "Torquato Tasso" in Rome) at the age of 17.

3 November
He joined the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Rome.


He started to write the “Volumetti”, personal notebooks where he wrote down his own studies and/or researches (the date reported in the first of the five notebooks is 8 March 1927).

E. Amaldi and E. Segrè, students in Engineering, decided to follow the appeal launched by the Director of the Institute of Physics in Rome, O.M. Corbino, and joined the Fermi group (the formal passage was registered on November 1927 for Segrè and on February 1928 for Amaldi).

Segrè encouraged Majorana to meet Fermi; after such meeting, he passed from Engineering to Physics (the formal passage was registered on 19 November 1928).


In collaboration with G. Gentile jr. he published his first paper (1), following the spectroscopic researches of the Fermi group (the paper was presented at the Accademia dei Lincei on 24 July).

29 December
Still University student, he participated at the XXII General Meeting of the Italian Physical Society (directed by his uncle Quirino), delivering a talk entitled Ricerca di un’espressione generale delle correzioni di Rydberg, valevole per atomi neutri o ionizzati positivamente (the summary of his talk is reported in Il Nuovo Cimento, Vol.6 (1929) pp. XIV-XVI, while the original work is in the Volumetto II.)


6 July
He graduated with a master degree in Physics; his dissertation was titled La teoria quantistica dei nuclei radioattivi. It is the first time that, in the Rome group headed by Fermi, a topic of Nuclear Physics was studied.


He published two papers (2) (4) on the chemical bond of molecules and two more papers (3) (5) on spectroscopic researches.


He published two more papers (6) (7). In the first of this, which was stimulated by Segrè, he studied for the first time, from a theoretical point of view, the non-adiabatic spin-flip, whose transition probability was independently obtained by Landau and Zener in the same year. Such process was later reconsidered by I. Rabi in 1937 and by F. Bloch and I. Rabi in 1945. In the second article, instead, for the first time he introduced the simplest infinite-dimensional representations of the Lorentz group, anticipating the works by E. Wigner in 1939 and 1948.

After the discovery of the neutron by J. Chadwick, he revealed to the other people of the Fermi group that he was working on a theory of light nuclei made of only protons and neutrons (without electrons). Although encouraged by Fermi and his group, he decided to not publish his work. An analogous theory, with some defects, was published independently by W. Heisenberg in the following July.

12 November
He got the “Libera docenza” degree in Theoretical Physics at the University of Rome.


Upon suggestion of E. Fermi, he obtained a fellowship from the Italian C.N.R. for visiting the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Leipzig headed by Heisenberg.

19 January
In the evening he arrived at Leipzig.

3 March
Encouraged by Heisenberg, he finally sent, to the German journal Zeitschrift fur Physik, his paper (8) on nuclear theory, whose main result was already obtained one year before and where he corrected the Heisenberg theory on nuclear interactions.

4 March
From Leipzig he moved to Copenhagen, where he stayed for about one month at the Institute of Theoretical Physics directed by N. Bohr.

15 April
He left Copenhagen for coming back to Rome for the Easter holidays.

At the University of Rome he presented the programme for a course on Mathematical Methods of Quantum Mechanics, never effectively delivered. [Fronte] [Retro]

5 May
He came back to Leipzig for continuing his visit.

11 May
Upon request of the Italian C.N.R., he sent to the official journal of this agency,La Ricerca Scientifica, the Italian version of the paper (8) published in German.

The Majorana family (the mother of Ettore with his sisters Rosina and Maria and his brother Salvatore) visited Ettore in Leipzig.

5 August
He definitively came back to Rome.


His father died; such tragic event had a strong influence on his following life.


30 April
At the University of Rome he presented the programme for a course on Mathematical Methods of Atomic Physics, never effectively delivered. [Fronte] [Retro]


28 April
At the University of Rome he presented the programme for a course on Quantum Electrodynamics, never effectively delivered. [Fronte] [Retro]


He published his last paper (9), where he presented results obtained some years before. It contained the fundamental theory on the Majorana neutrino, which was recovered twenty years after in order to explain the phenomena related to the problem of the neutrino mass.

He decided to participate to the competition of a full professorship in Theoretical Physics requested by the University of Palermo (by means of E. Segrè). Among the participants we find G. Gentile jr, L. Pincherle, G. Racah, G. Wataghin, G.C. Wick.

25 October
The judging committee for the competition (headed by Fermi) met for the first time, and immediately stopped its work in order to send a letter to the Minister of Education with the request to give a chair in Theoretical Physics to Majorana “for high and well deserved repute”, independently of the usual competition rules.

2 November
The Minister of Education accepted the request and appointed Majorana as full professor at the University of Naples (starting from the following 16 November).


10 or 11 January
He arrived in Naples to take up the chair of Theoretical Physics.

13 January
At 9.00 he delivered the opening lecture for his course on Theoretical Physics. His family arrived from Rome for the occasion.

15 January
He effectively started his course to students (which was usually delivered on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of each week).

12 March
After having delivered his lecture, for the last time he visited his family in Rome.

24 March
He delivered his last lecture (N.21) to students.

25 March
In the morning he went to the Institute of Physics of Naples to give a folder with the notes of his lectures to a student of him. After having come back to his Hotel, at 17.00 he left it for an unknown destination. Confirmed tracks of his successive steps end here.