Fano was the son of the Turin professor of mathematics Gino Fano, from a wealthy Jewish family. He initially studied mathematics at Turin, where he received his doctorate in 1934. He then joined the research group of Enrico Fermi in Rome (known as the "Young Via Panisperna " ), who was also his cousin Giulio Racah, also a prominent nuclear physicist. Here he developed his theory of "resonant configuration interaction " ( Nuovo Cimento Bd.12, 1935, p.154, Physical Review, Bd.124, 1961, S.1866, the latter is one of the most cited Physical Review work ), the interaction bound states with the continuum ( Fano resonance). It explains the asymmetric line shape of the spectra of inert gases that Hans Beutler had found ( Fano profile, generalized Breit-Wigner formula ). 1936 to 1937 he was with Werner Heisenberg in Leipzig. In 1939 he married Camilla Lattes and emigrated before increasing racism in Italy in the same year in the United States. There he first worked on radiation effects on living cells in the laboratory of Milislav Demerec at Cold Spring Harbor. The field he chose already on Fermi's suggestion in Rome and other physicists were at that time was active, Max Delbrück, who later won the Nobel Prize for his Bakteriophagenforschungen. Fano also devoted himself later, the systematic study of the radiation interactions with matter. During World War II he worked at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, the Ballistics Research Center of the U.S. Army. After the war he went to the 1946 National Bureau of Standards ( NBS), as the first paid theorist at all. Here he worked closely with experimentalists together, particularly in the study of highly excited atomic states in the 1960s. In 1966 he became a professor at the University of Chicago. He counted over several decades of the leading theoretical nuclear physicists, was the central figure of a large school of atomic and molecular physics.
In 1995 he received the Enrico Fermi Award. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, and a Fellow of the Royal Society since 1976. His brother Robert Fano was a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT.