The Info List - Paul Dirac

Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac OM FRS[7] (/dɪˈræk/; 8 August 1902 – 20 October 1984) was an English theoretical physicist who is regarded as one of the most significant physicists of the 20th century. Dirac made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. Among other discoveries, he formulated the Dirac equation
Dirac equation
which describes the behaviour of fermions and predicted the existence of antimatter. Dirac shared the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
with Erwin Schrödinger
Erwin Schrödinger
"for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory".[8] He also made significant contributions to the reconciliation of general relativity with quantum mechanics. Dirac was regarded by his friends and colleagues as unusual in character. In a 1926 letter to Paul Ehrenfest, Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
wrote of Dirac, "This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful".[9] He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a member of the Center for Theoretical Studies, University of Miami, and spent the last decade of his life at Florida State University.


1 Personal life

1.1 Early years 1.2 Education 1.3 Family 1.4 Personality 1.5 Religious views 1.6 Honours 1.7 Death

2 Career

2.1 Gravity 2.2 Quantum theory 2.3 The Dirac equation 2.4 Magnetic monopoles 2.5 Lucasian Chair 2.6 Professorship at Florida State University 2.7 Students

3 Legacy 4 Publications 5 References

5.1 Sources 5.2 Further reading 5.3 External links

Personal life Early years Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was born at his parents' home in Bristol, England, on 8 August 1902,[10] and grew up in the Bishopston area of the city.[11] His father, Charles Adrien Ladislas Dirac, was an immigrant from Saint-Maurice, Switzerland, who worked in Bristol
as a French teacher. His mother, Florence Hannah Dirac, née Holten, the daughter of a ship's captain, was born in Cornwall, England, and worked as a librarian at the Bristol
Central Library. Paul had a younger sister, Béatrice Isabelle Marguerite, known as Betty, and an older brother, Reginald Charles Félix, known as Felix,[12][13] who committed suicide in March 1925.[14] Dirac later recalled: "My parents were terribly distressed. I didn't know they cared so much [...] I never knew that parents were supposed to care for their children, but from then on I knew."[15] Charles and the children were officially Swiss nationals until they became naturalised on 22 October 1919.[16] Dirac's father was strict and authoritarian, although he disapproved of corporal punishment.[17] Dirac had a strained relationship with his father, so much so that after his father's death, Dirac wrote, "I feel much freer now, and I am my own man." Charles forced his children to speak to him only in French, in order that they learn the language. When Dirac found that he could not express what he wanted to say in French, he chose to remain silent.[18][19] Education Dirac was educated first at Bishop Road Primary School[20] and then at the all-boys Merchant Venturers' Technical College (later Cotham School), where his father was a French teacher.[21] The school was an institution attached to the University of Bristol, which shared grounds and staff.[22] It emphasised technical subjects like bricklaying, shoemaking and metal work, and modern languages.[23] This was unusual at a time when secondary education in Britain was still dedicated largely to the classics, and something for which Dirac would later express his gratitude.[22] Dirac studied electrical engineering on a City of Bristol
University Scholarship at the University of Bristol's engineering faculty, which was co-located with the Merchant Venturers' Technical College.[24] Shortly before he completed his degree in 1921, he sat the entrance examination for St John's College, Cambridge. He passed, and was awarded a £70 scholarship, but this fell short of the amount of money required to live and study at Cambridge. Despite his having graduated with a first class honours Bachelor of Science degree in engineering, the economic climate of the post-war depression was such that he was unable to find work as an engineer. Instead he took up an offer to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics at the University of Bristol
free of charge. He was permitted to skip the first year of the course owing to his engineering degree.[25] In 1923, Dirac graduated, once again with first class honours, and received a £140 scholarship from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.[26] Along with his £70 scholarship from St John's College, this was enough to live at Cambridge. There, Dirac pursued his interests in the theory of general relativity, an interest he had gained earlier as a student in Bristol, and in the nascent field of quantum physics, under the supervision of Ralph Fowler.[27] From 1925 to 1928 he held an 1851 Research Fellowship from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851.[28] He completed his PhD in June 1926 with the first thesis on quantum mechanics to be submitted anywhere.[29] He then continued his research in Copenhagen
and Göttingen.[28] Family

Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
with his wife in Copenhagen, July 1963

Dirac married Margit Wigner (Eugene Wigner's sister), in 1937. He adopted Margit's two children, Judith and Gabriel. Paul and Margit Dirac had two children together, both daughters, Mary Elizabeth and Florence Monica. Margit, known as Manci, visited her brother in 1934 in Princeton, New Jersey, from her native Hungary and, while at dinner at the Annex Restaurant met the "lonely-looking man at the next table." This account from a Korean physicist, Y. S. Kim, who met and was influenced by Dirac, also says: "It is quite fortunate for the physics community that Manci took good care of our respected Paul A. M. Dirac. Dirac published eleven papers during the period 1939–46.... Dirac was able to maintain his normal research productivity only because Manci was in charge of everything else."[30] Personality Dirac was known among his colleagues for his precise and taciturn nature. His colleagues in Cambridge jokingly defined a unit called a "dirac", which was one word per hour.[31] When Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
complained that he did not know how to finish a sentence in a scientific article he was writing, Dirac replied, "I was taught at school never to start a sentence without knowing the end of it."[32] He criticised the physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer's interest in poetry: "The aim of science is to make difficult things understandable in a simpler way; the aim of poetry is to state simple things in an incomprehensible way. The two are incompatible."[33] Dirac himself wrote in his diary during his postgraduate years that he concentrated solely on his research, and stopped only on Sunday, when he took long strolls alone.[34] An anecdote recounted in a review of the 2009 biography tells of Werner Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
and Dirac sailing on an ocean liner to a conference in Japan in August 1929. "Both still in their twenties, and unmarried, they made an odd couple. Heisenberg was a ladies' man who constantly flirted and danced, while Dirac—'an Edwardian geek', as biographer Graham Farmelo puts it—suffered agonies if forced into any kind of socialising or small talk. 'Why do you dance?' Dirac asked his companion. 'When there are nice girls, it is a pleasure,' Heisenberg replied. Dirac pondered this notion, then blurted out: 'But, Heisenberg, how do you know beforehand that the girls are nice?'"[35] According to a story told in different versions, a friend or student visited Dirac, not knowing of his marriage. Noticing the visitor's surprise at seeing an attractive woman in the house, Dirac said, "This is... this is Wigner's sister". Margit Dirac told both George Gamow and Anton Capri in the 1960s that her husband had actually said, "Allow me to present Wigner's sister, who is now my wife."[36][37] Another story told of Dirac is that when he first met the young Richard Feynman
Richard Feynman
at a conference, he said after a long silence, "I have an equation. Do you have one too?"[38] After he presented a lecture at a conference, one colleague raised his hand and said "I don't understand the equation on the top-right-hand corner of the blackboard". After a long silence, the moderator asked Dirac if he wanted to answer the question, to which Dirac replied "That was not a question, it was a comment."[39][40] Dirac was also noted for his personal modesty. He called the equation for the time evolution of a quantum-mechanical operator, which he was the first to write down, the "Heisenberg equation of motion". Most physicists speak of Fermi–Dirac statistics
Fermi–Dirac statistics
for half-integer-spin particles and Bose–Einstein statistics
Bose–Einstein statistics
for integer-spin particles. While lecturing later in life, Dirac always insisted on calling the former "Fermi statistics". He referred to the latter as "Einstein statistics" for reasons, he explained, of "symmetry".[41] Religious views Heisenberg recollected a conversation among young participants at the 1927 Solvay Conference
Solvay Conference
about Einstein and Planck's views on religion between Wolfgang Pauli, Heisenberg and Dirac. Dirac's contribution was a criticism of the political purpose of religion, which was much appreciated for its lucidity by Bohr when Heisenberg reported it to him later. Among other things, Dirac said:

I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can't for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards—in heaven if not on earth—all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins.[42]

Heisenberg's view was tolerant. Pauli, raised as a Catholic, had kept silent after some initial remarks, but when finally he was asked for his opinion, said: "Well, our friend Dirac has got a religion and its guiding principle is 'There is no God and Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
is His prophet.'" Everybody, including Dirac, burst into laughter.[43][44] Later in life, Dirac's views towards the idea of God were less acerbic. As an author of an article appearing in the May 1963 edition of Scientific American, Dirac wrote:

It seems to be one of the fundamental features of nature that fundamental physical laws are described in terms of a mathematical theory of great beauty and power, needing quite a high standard of mathematics for one to understand it. You may wonder: Why is nature constructed along these lines? One can only answer that our present knowledge seems to show that nature is so constructed. We simply have to accept it. One could perhaps describe the situation by saying that God is a mathematician of a very high order, and He used very advanced mathematics in constructing the universe. Our feeble attempts at mathematics enable us to understand a bit of the universe, and as we proceed to develop higher and higher mathematics we can hope to understand the universe better.[45]

In 1971, at a conference meeting, Dirac expressed his views on the existence of God.[46] Dirac explained that the existence of God could only be justified if an improbable event were to have taken place in the past:

It could be that it is extremely difficult to start life. It might be that it is so difficult to start life that it has happened only once among all the planets... Let us consider, just as a conjecture, that the chance life starting when we have got suitable physical conditions is 10−100. I don't have any logical reason for proposing this figure, I just want you to consider it as a possibility. Under those conditions ... it is almost certain that life would not have started. And I feel that under those conditions it will be necessary to assume the existence of a god to start off life. I would like, therefore, to set up this connexion between the existence of a god and the physical laws: if physical laws are such that to start off life involves an excessively small chance, so that it will not be reasonable to suppose that life would have started just by blind chance, then there must be a god, and such a god would probably be showing his influence in the quantum jumps which are taking place later on. On the other hand, if life can start very easily and does not need any divine influence, then I will say that there is no god.[46]

Dirac did not commend himself to any definite view, but he described the possibilities for answering the question of God in a scientific manner.[46] Honours Dirac shared the 1933 Nobel Prize for physics with Erwin Schrödinger "for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory".[8] Dirac was also awarded the Royal Medal
Royal Medal
in 1939 and both the Copley Medal and the Max Planck Medal in 1952. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1930,[7] an Honorary Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1948, and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Physics, London in 1971. He received the inaugural J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize in 1969.[47][48] Dirac became a member of the Order of Merit in 1973, having previously turned down a knighthood as he did not want to be addressed by his first name.[35][49] Death

Dirac's grave in Roselawn Cemetery, Tallahassee, Florida. Also buried is his wife Manci (Margit Wigner). Their daughter Mary Elizabeth Dirac, who died 20 January 2007, is buried next to them but not shown in the photograph.

The commemorative marker in Westminster Abbey.

In 1984, Dirac died in Tallahassee, Florida, and was buried at Tallahassee's Roselawn Cemetery.[50][51] Dirac's childhood home in Bristol
is commemorated with a blue plaque and the nearby Dirac Road is named in recognition of his links with the city. A commemorative stone was erected in a garden in Saint-Maurice, Switzerland, the town of origin of his father's family, on 1 August 1991. On 13 November 1995 a commemorative marker, made from Burlington green slate and inscribed with the Dirac equation, was unveiled in Westminster Abbey.[50][52] The Dean of Westminster, Edward Carpenter, had initially refused permission for the memorial, thinking Dirac to be anti-Christian, but was eventually (over a five-year period) persuaded to relent.[53] Career Dirac established the most general theory of quantum mechanics and discovered the relativistic equation for the electron, which now bears his name. The remarkable notion of an antiparticle to each fermion particle – e.g. the positron as antiparticle to the electron – stems from his equation. He was the first to develop quantum field theory, which underlies all theoretical work on sub-atomic or "elementary" particles today, work that is fundamental to our understanding of the forces of nature. He proposed and investigated the concept of a magnetic monopole, an object not yet known empirically, as a means of bringing even greater symmetry to James Clerk Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism. Gravity He quantised the gravitational field, and developed a general theory of quantum field theories with dynamical constraints, which forms the basis of the gauge theories and superstring theories of today. The influence and importance of his work has increased with the decades, and physicists use the concepts and equations that he developed daily. Quantum theory Dirac's first step into a new quantum theory was taken late in September 1925. Ralph Fowler, his research supervisor, had received a proof copy of an exploratory paper by Werner Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
in the framework of the old quantum theory of Bohr and Sommerfeld. Heisenberg leaned heavily on Bohr's correspondence principle but changed the equations so that they involved directly observable quantities, leading to the matrix formulation of quantum mechanics. Fowler sent Heisenberg's paper on to Dirac, who was on vacation in Bristol, asking him to look into this paper carefully. Dirac's attention was drawn to a mysterious mathematical relationship, at first sight unintelligible, that Heisenberg had reached. Several weeks later, back in Cambridge, Dirac suddenly recognised that this mathematical form had the same structure as the Poisson brackets that occur in the classical dynamics of particle motion. From this thought he quickly developed a quantum theory that was based on non-commuting dynamical variables. This led him to a more profound and significant general formulation of quantum mechanics than was achieved by any other worker in this field.[54] Dirac's formulation allowed him to obtain the quantisation rules in a novel and more illuminating manner. For this work,[55] published in 1926, Dirac received a PhD from Cambridge. This formed the basis for Fermi-Dirac statistics
Fermi-Dirac statistics
that applies to systems consisting of many identical spin 1/2 particles (i.e. that obey the Pauli exclusion principle), e.g. electrons in solids and liquids, and importantly to the field of conduction in semi-conductors. Dirac was famously not bothered by issues of interpretation in quantum theory. In fact, in a paper published in a book in his honour, he wrote: "The interpretation of quantum mechanics has been dealt with by many authors, and I do not want to discuss it here. I want to deal with more fundamental things."[56] The Dirac equation Further information: Dirac equation In 1928, building on 2×2 spin matrices which he purported to have discovered independently of Wolfgang Pauli's work on non-relativistic spin systems (Dirac told Abraham Pais, "I believe I got these [matrices] independently of Pauli and possibly Pauli got these independently of me."),[57] he proposed the Dirac equation
Dirac equation
as a relativistic equation of motion for the wave function of the electron.[58] This work led Dirac to predict the existence of the positron, the electron's antiparticle, which he interpreted in terms of what came to be called the Dirac sea.[59] The positron was observed by Carl Anderson in 1932. Dirac's equation also contributed to explaining the origin of quantum spin as a relativistic phenomenon. The necessity of fermions (matter) being created and destroyed in Enrico Fermi's 1934 theory of beta decay led to a reinterpretation of Dirac's equation as a "classical" field equation for any point particle of spin ħ/2, itself subject to quantisation conditions involving anti-commutators. Thus reinterpreted, in 1934 by Werner Heisenberg, as a (quantum) field equation accurately describing all elementary matter particles – today quarks and leptons – this Dirac field equation is as central to theoretical physics as the Maxwell, Yang–Mills and Einstein field equations. Dirac is regarded as the founder of quantum electrodynamics, being the first to use that term. He also introduced the idea of vacuum polarisation in the early 1930s. This work was key to the development of quantum mechanics by the next generation of theorists, in particular Schwinger, Feynman, Sin-Itiro Tomonaga
Sin-Itiro Tomonaga
and Dyson in their formulation of quantum electrodynamics. Dirac's The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, published in 1930, is a landmark in the history of science. It quickly became one of the standard textbooks on the subject and is still used today. In that book, Dirac incorporated the previous work of Werner Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
on matrix mechanics and of Erwin Schrödinger
Erwin Schrödinger
on wave mechanics into a single mathematical formalism that associates measurable quantities to operators acting on the Hilbert space
Hilbert space
of vectors that describe the state of a physical system. The book also introduced the delta function. Following his 1939 article,[60] he also included the bra–ket notation in the third edition of his book,[61] thereby contributing to its universal use nowadays. Magnetic monopoles In 1931, Dirac proposed that the existence of a single magnetic monopole in the universe would suffice to explain the quantisation of electrical charge.[62] In 1975,[63] 1982,[64] and 2009[65][66][67] intriguing results suggested the possible detection of magnetic monopoles, but there is, to date, no direct evidence for their existence (see also Magnetic monopole#Searches for magnetic monopoles). Lucasian Chair Dirac was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge from 1932 to 1969. In 1937, he proposed a speculative cosmological model based on the so-called large numbers hypothesis. During World War II, he conducted important theoretical and experimental research on uranium enrichment by gas centrifuge. Dirac's quantum electrodynamics (QED) made predictions that were – more often than not – infinite and therefore unacceptable. A workaround known as renormalisation was developed, but Dirac never accepted this. "I must say that I am very dissatisfied with the situation", he said in 1975, "because this so-called 'good theory' does involve neglecting infinities which appear in its equations, neglecting them in an arbitrary way. This is just not sensible mathematics. Sensible mathematics involves neglecting a quantity when it is small – not neglecting it just because it is infinitely great and you do not want it!"[68] His refusal to accept renormalisation resulted in his work on the subject moving increasingly out of the mainstream. However, from his once rejected notes he managed to work on putting quantum electrodynamics on "logical foundations" based on Hamiltonian formalism that he formulated. He found a rather novel way of deriving the anomalous magnetic moment "Schwinger term" and also the Lamb shift, afresh in 1963, using the Heisenberg picture
Heisenberg picture
and without using the joining method used by Weisskopf and French, and by the two pioneers of modern QED, Schwinger and Feynman. That was two years before the Tomonaga–Schwinger–Feynman QED was given formal recognition by an award of the Nobel Prize for physics. Weisskopf and French (FW) were the first to obtain the correct result for the Lamb shift
Lamb shift
and the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron. At first FW results did not agree with the incorrect but independent results of Feynman and Schwinger.[69] The 1963–1964 lectures Dirac gave on quantum field theory at Yeshiva University were published in 1966 as the Belfer Graduate School of Science, Monograph Series Number, 3. After having relocated to Florida to be near his elder daughter, Mary, Dirac spent his last fourteen years (of both life and physics research) at the University of Miami
University of Miami
in Coral Gables, Florida, and Florida State University
Florida State University
in Tallahassee, Florida. In the 1950s in his search for a better QED, Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
developed the Hamiltonian theory of constraints[70] based on lectures that he delivered at the 1949 International Mathematical Congress in Canada. Dirac[71] had also solved the problem of putting the Tomonaga–Schwinger equation into the Schrödinger representation[72] and given explicit expressions for the scalar meson field (spin zero pion or pseudoscalar meson), the vector meson field (spin one rho meson), and the electromagnetic field (spin one massless boson, photon). The Hamiltonian of constrained systems is one of Dirac's many masterpieces. It is a powerful generalisation of Hamiltonian theory that remains valid for curved spacetime. The equations for the Hamiltonian involve only six degrees of freedom described by


r s

displaystyle g_ rs



r s

displaystyle p^ rs

for each point of the surface on which the state is considered. The


m 0

displaystyle g_ m0

(m = 0, 1, 2, 3) appear in the theory only through the variables


r 0

displaystyle g^ r0


( −




− 1



displaystyle (- g^ 00 )^ -1/2

which occur as arbitrary coefficients in the equations of motion. There are four constraints or weak equations for each point of the surface



displaystyle x^ 0

= constant. Three of them



displaystyle H_ r

form the four vector density in the surface. The fourth



displaystyle H_ L

is a 3-dimensional scalar density in the surface HL ≈ 0; Hr ≈ 0 (r = 1, 2, 3) In the late 1950s, he applied the Hamiltonian methods he had developed to cast Einstein's general relativity in Hamiltonian form[73] and to bring to a technical completion the quantisation problem of gravitation and bring it also closer to the rest of physics according to Salam and DeWitt. In 1959 he also gave an invited talk on "Energy of the Gravitational Field" at the New York Meeting of the American Physical Society later published in 1959 Phys Rev Lett 2, 368. In 1964 he published his Lectures on Quantum Mechanics (London:Academic) which deals with constrained dynamics of nonlinear dynamical systems including quantisation of curved spacetime. He also published a paper entitled "Quantization of the Gravitational Field" in the 1967 ICTP/IAEA Trieste Symposium on Contemporary Physics. Professorship at Florida State University From September 1970 to January 1971, Dirac was Visiting Professor at Florida State University
Florida State University
in Tallahassee. During that time he was offered a permanent position there, which he accepted, becoming a full professor in 1972. Contemporary accounts of his time there describe it as happy except that he apparently found the summer heat oppressive and liked to escape from it to Cambridge.[74] He would walk about a mile to work each day and was fond of swimming in one of the two nearby lakes (Silver Lake and Lost Lake), and was also more sociable than he had been at Cambridge, where he mostly worked at home apart from giving classes and seminars; at FSU he would usually eat lunch with his colleagues before taking a nap. Dirac published over 60 papers in those last twelve years of his life, including a short book on general relativity. His last paper (1984), entitled "The inadequacies of quantum field theory," contains his final judgment on quantum field theory; "These rules of renormalisation give surprisingly, excessively good agreement with experiments. Most physicists say that these working rules are, therefore, correct. I feel that is not an adequate reason. Just because the results happen to be in agreement with observation does not prove that one's theory is correct." The paper ends with these words; "I have spent many years searching for a Hamiltonian to bring into the theory and have not yet found it. I shall continue to work on it as long as I can and other people, I hope, will follow along such lines." (Source: "Paul Dirac: The Man and his Work" by Abraham Pais
Abraham Pais
et al.) Students Amongst his many students[75][3] were Homi J. Bhabha[2], Fred Hoyle and John Polkinghorne.[4] Polkinghorne recalls that Dirac "was once asked what was his fundamental belief. He strode to a blackboard and wrote that the laws of nature should be expressed in beautiful equations."[76] Legacy In 1975, Dirac gave a series of five lectures at the University of New South Wales which were subsequently published as a book, Directions in Physics (1978). He donated the royalties from this book to the university for the establishment of the Dirac Lecture Series. The Silver Dirac Medal for the Advancement of Theoretical Physics is awarded by the University of New South Wales
University of New South Wales
to commemorate the lecture.[77] Immediately after his death, two organisations of professional physicists established annual awards in Dirac's memory. The Institute of Physics, the United Kingdom's professional body for physicists, awards the Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
Medal for "outstanding contributions to theoretical (including mathematical and computational) physics".[78] The first three recipients were Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
(1987), John Stewart Bell (1988), and Roger Penrose
Roger Penrose
(1989). The International Centre for Theoretical Physics awards the Dirac Medal of the ICTP each year on Dirac's birthday (8 August).[79] The Dirac-Hellman Award at Florida State University
Florida State University
was endowed by Dr Bruce P. Hellman in 1997 to reward outstanding work in theoretical physics by FSU researchers.[80] The Paul A.M. Dirac Science Library at Florida State University, which Manci opened in December 1989,[81] is named in his honour, and his papers are held there.[82] Outside is a statue of him by Gabriella Bollobás.[83] The street on which the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
in Innovation Park of Tallahassee, Florida, is located is named Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
Drive. As well as in his home town of Bristol, there is also a road named after him in Didcot
Oxfordshire, Dirac Place.[84] The BBC named a video codec, Dirac, in his honour. An asteroid discovered in 1983 was named after Dirac.[85] The Distributed Research utilising Advanced Computing (DiRAC) and Dirac software are named in his honour. Publications

The Principles of Quantum Mechanics (1930): This book summarises the ideas of quantum mechanics using the modern formalism that was largely developed by Dirac himself. Towards the end of the book, he also discusses the relativistic theory of the electron (the Dirac equation), which was also pioneered by him. This work does not refer to any other writings then available on quantum mechanics. Lectures on Quantum Mechanics (1966): Much of this book deals with quantum mechanics in curved space-time. Lectures on Quantum Field Theory (1966): This book lays down the foundations of quantum field theory using the Hamiltonian formalism. Spinors in Hilbert Space (1974): This book based on lectures given in 1969 at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, USA, deals with the basic aspects of spinors starting with a real Hilbert space formalism. Dirac concludes with the prophetic words "We have boson variables appearing automatically in a theory that starts with only fermion variables, provided the number of fermion variables is infinite. There must be such boson variables connected with electrons..." General Theory of Relativity (1975): This 69-page work summarises Einstein's general theory of relativity.


^ "Nobel Bio". Nobelprize.org. Retrieved 27 January 2014.  ^ a b Bhabha, Homi Jehangir (1935). On cosmic radiation and the creation and annihilation of positrons and electrons. repository.cam.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.727546.  ^ a b Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
at the Mathematics Genealogy Project ^ a b Polkinghorne, John Charlton (1955). Contributions to quantum field theory. lib.cam.ac.uk (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.727138.  ^ Farmelo, Graham (2009). The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius. Faber and Faber. ISBN 9780571222780.  ^ Cassidy, David C. (2010). "Graham Farmelo. The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom". Isis. University of Chicago Press. 101: 661–661. doi:10.1086/657209. Farmelo also discusses, across several chapters, the influences of John Stuart Mill...  ^ a b Dalitz, R. H.; Peierls, R. (1986). "Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac. 8 August 1902 – 20 October 1984". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 32: 138. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1986.0006. JSTOR 770111.  ^ a b "The Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
1933". The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 4 April 2013.  ^ Sukumar, N. (2012). A Matter of Density: Exploring the Electron Density Concept in the Chemical, Biological, and Materials Sciences. John Wiley & Sons. p. 27. ISBN 9781118431719. Retrieved 3 April 2013.  ^ Farmelo 2009, p. 10 ^ Farmelo 2009, pp. 18–19 ^ Kragh 1990, p. 1 ^ Farmelo 2009, pp. 10–11 ^ Farmelo 2009, pp. 77–78 ^ Farmelo 2009, p. 79 ^ Farmelo 2009, p. 34 ^ Farmelo 2009, p. 22 ^ Mehra 1972, p. 17 ^ Kragh 1990, p. 2 ^ Farmelo 2009, pp. 13–17 ^ Farmelo 2009, pp. 20–21 ^ a b Mehra 1972, p. 18 ^ Farmelo 2009, p. 23 ^ Farmelo 2009, p. 28 ^ Farmelo 2009, pp. 46–47 ^ Farmelo 2009, p. 53 ^ Farmelo 2009, pp. 52–53 ^ a b 1851 Royal Commission Archives ^ Farmelo 2009, p. 101 ^ Kim, Young Suh (1995). "Wigner's Sisters". Retrieved 4 April 2013.  ^ Farmelo 2009, p. 89 ^ "Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac". University of St. Andrews. Retrieved 4 April 2013.  ^ Mehra 1972, pp. 17–59 ^ Kragh (1990), p. 17. ^ a b McKie, Rob (1 February 2009). "Anti-matter and madness". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2013.  ^ Gamow 1966, p. 121 ^ Capri 2007, p. 148 ^ Zee 2010, p. 105 ^ Raymo, Chet (17 October 2009). "A quantum leap into oddness". Globe and Mail.  (Review of Farmelo's The Strangest Man.) ^ Farmelo 2009, pp. 161–162, who attributes the story to Niels Bohr. ^ Mehra, Jagdish; Rechenberg, Helmut (2001). The Historical Development of Quantum Theory. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 746. ISBN 9780387951805.  ^ Heisenberg 1971, pp. 85–86 ^ Heisenberg 1971, p. 87 ^ Farmelo 2009, p. 138, who says this was an old joke, pointing out in a footnote that Punch wrote in the 1850s that "There is no God, and Harriet Martineau
Harriet Martineau
is her prophet." ^ Dirac, Paul (May 1963). "The Evolution of the Physicist's Picture of Nature". Scientific American. Retrieved 4 April 2013.  ^ a b c Helge Kragh (1990). "The purest soul". Dirac: A Scientific Biography. Cambridge University Press. pp. 256–257. ISBN 9780521380898.  ^ Walter, Claire (1982). Winners, the blue ribbon encyclopedia of awards. Facts on File
Inc. p. 438. ISBN 9780871963864.  ^ "Dirac Receives Miami Center Oppenheimer Memorial Prize". Physics Today. American Institute of Physics: 127. April 1969. doi:10.1063/1.3035512. Retrieved 1 March 2015.  ^ Farmelo 2009, pp. 403–404 ^ a b "Dirac takes his place next to Isaac Newton". Florida State University. Archived from the original on 27 April 1997. Retrieved 4 April 2013.  ^ Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac at Find a Grave ^ "Paul Dirac". Gisela Dirac. Retrieved 4 April 2013.  ^ Farmelo 2009, pp. 414–15 ^ "Paul Dirac: a genius in the history of physics". Cern Courier. Retrieved 13 May 2013.  ^ Dirac, Paul A. M. (1926). "On the Theory of Quantum Mechanics". Proceedings of the Royal Society
Royal Society
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Capri, Anton Z. (2007). Quips, Quotes, and Quanta: An Anecdotal History of Physics. Hackensack, New Jersey: World Scientific. ISBN 981-270-919-3. OCLC 214286147. Retrieved 8 June 2008.  Crease, Robert P.; Mann, Charles C. (1986). The Second Creation: Makers of the Revolution in Twentieth Century Physics. New York City: Macmillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-521440-3. OCLC 13008048.  Gamow, George (1966). Thirty Years That Shook Physics: The Story of Quantum Theory. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-486-24895-X. OCLC 11970045. Retrieved 8 June 2008.  Heisenberg, Werner (1971). Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations. New York City: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-131622-9. OCLC 115992.  Kragh, Helge (1990). Dirac: A Scientific Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-38089-8. OCLC 20013981. Retrieved 8 June 2008.  Mehra, Jagdish (1972). "The Golden Age of Theoretical Physics: P. A. M. Dirac's Scientific Works from 1924–1933". In Wigner, Eugene Paul; Salam, Abdus. Aspects of Quantum Theory. Cambridge: University Press. pp. 17–59. ISBN 0-521-08600-0. OCLC 532357.  Schweber, Silvan S. (1994). QED and the men who made it: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-03685-3. OCLC 28966591.  Zee, A. (2010). Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-1-4008-3532-4. OCLC 318585662. 

Further reading

Brown, Helen (24 January 2009). "The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
by Graham Farmelo – review [print version: The man behind the maths]". The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
(Review). p. 20. Retrieved 11 April 2011. . Gilder, Louisa (13 September 2009). " Quantum Leap – Review of 'The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
by Graham Farmelo'". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2011.  Review.

External links

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
has media related to: Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac

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Free online access to Dirac's classic 1920s papers from Royal Society's Proceedings A Annotated bibliography for Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues The Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
Collection at Florida State University Letters from Dirac (1932–36) and other papers Oral History interview transcript with Dirac 1 April 1962, 6, 7, 10, & 14 May 1963, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Library and Archives

v t e

Copley Medallists (1951–2000)

David Keilin
David Keilin
(1951) Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
(1952) Albert Kluyver
Albert Kluyver
(1953) E. T. Whittaker
E. T. Whittaker
(1954) Ronald Fisher
Ronald Fisher
(1955) Patrick Blackett (1956) Howard Florey
Howard Florey
(1957) John Edensor Littlewood (1958) Frank Macfarlane Burnet
Frank Macfarlane Burnet
(1959) Harold Jeffreys
Harold Jeffreys
(1960) Hans Adolf Krebs
Hans Adolf Krebs
(1961) Cyril Norman Hinshelwood
Cyril Norman Hinshelwood
(1962) Paul Fildes
Paul Fildes
(1963) Sydney Chapman (1964) Alan Lloyd Hodgkin
Alan Lloyd Hodgkin
(1965) Lawrence Bragg
Lawrence Bragg
(1966) Bernard Katz (1967) Tadeusz Reichstein
Tadeusz Reichstein
(1968) Peter Medawar
Peter Medawar
(1969) Alexander R. Todd
Alexander R. Todd
(1970) Norman Pirie (1971) Nevill Francis Mott (1972) Andrew Huxley
Andrew Huxley
(1973) W. V. D. Hodge
W. V. D. Hodge
(1974) Francis Crick
Francis Crick
(1975) Dorothy Hodgkin
Dorothy Hodgkin
(1976) Frederick Sanger
Frederick Sanger
(1977) Robert Burns Woodward
Robert Burns Woodward
(1978) Max Perutz
Max Perutz
(1979) Derek Barton (1980) Peter D. Mitchell
Peter D. Mitchell
(1981) John Cornforth
John Cornforth
(1982) Rodney Robert Porter
Rodney Robert Porter
(1983) Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
(1984) Aaron Klug
Aaron Klug
(1985) Rudolf Peierls
Rudolf Peierls
(1986) Robin Hill (1987) Michael Atiyah
Michael Atiyah
(1988) César Milstein
César Milstein
(1989) Abdus Salam
Abdus Salam
(1990) Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner
(1991) George Porter
George Porter
(1992) James D. Watson (1993) Frederick Charles Frank
Frederick Charles Frank
(1994) Frank Fenner (1995) Alan Cottrell
Alan Cottrell
(1996) Hugh Huxley (1997) James Lighthill
James Lighthill
(1998) John Maynard Smith
John Maynard Smith
(1999) Alan Battersby (2000)

v t e

Laureates of the Nobel Prize in Physics


1901 Röntgen 1902 Lorentz / Zeeman 1903 Becquerel / P. Curie / M. Curie 1904 Rayleigh 1905 Lenard 1906 J. J. Thomson 1907 Michelson 1908 Lippmann 1909 Marconi / Braun 1910 Van der Waals 1911 Wien 1912 Dalén 1913 Kamerlingh Onnes 1914 Laue 1915 W. L. Bragg / W. H. Bragg 1916 1917 Barkla 1918 Planck 1919 Stark 1920 Guillaume 1921 Einstein 1922 N. Bohr 1923 Millikan 1924 M. Siegbahn 1925 Franck / Hertz


1926 Perrin 1927 Compton / C. Wilson 1928 O. Richardson 1929 De Broglie 1930 Raman 1931 1932 Heisenberg 1933 Schrödinger / Dirac 1934 1935 Chadwick 1936 Hess / C. D. Anderson 1937 Davisson / G. P. Thomson 1938 Fermi 1939 Lawrence 1940 1941 1942 1943 Stern 1944 Rabi 1945 Pauli 1946 Bridgman 1947 Appleton 1948 Blackett 1949 Yukawa 1950 Powell


1951 Cockcroft / Walton 1952 Bloch / Purcell 1953 Zernike 1954 Born / Bothe 1955 Lamb / Kusch 1956 Shockley / Bardeen / Brattain 1957 C. N. Yang / T. D. Lee 1958 Cherenkov / Frank / Tamm 1959 Segrè / Chamberlain 1960 Glaser 1961 Hofstadter / Mössbauer 1962 Landau 1963 Wigner / Goeppert-Mayer / Jensen 1964 Townes / Basov / Prokhorov 1965 Tomonaga / Schwinger / Feynman 1966 Kastler 1967 Bethe 1968 Alvarez 1969 Gell-Mann 1970 Alfvén / Néel 1971 Gabor 1972 Bardeen / Cooper / Schrieffer 1973 Esaki / Giaever / Josephson 1974 Ryle / Hewish 1975 A. Bohr / Mottelson / Rainwater


1976 Richter / Ting 1977 P. W. Anderson / Mott / Van Vleck 1978 Kapitsa / Penzias / R. Wilson 1979 Glashow / Salam / Weinberg 1980 Cronin / Fitch 1981 Bloembergen / Schawlow / K. Siegbahn 1982 K. Wilson 1983 Chandrasekhar / Fowler 1984 Rubbia / Van der Meer 1985 von Klitzing 1986 Ruska / Binnig / Rohrer 1987 Bednorz / Müller 1988 Lederman / Schwartz / Steinberger 1989 Ramsey / Dehmelt / Paul 1990 Friedman / Kendall / R. Taylor 1991 de Gennes 1992 Charpak 1993 Hulse / J. Taylor 1994 Brockhouse / Shull 1995 Perl / Reines 1996 D. Lee / Osheroff / R. Richardson 1997 Chu / Cohen-Tannoudji / Phillips 1998 Laughlin / Störmer / Tsui 1999 't Hooft / Veltman 2000 Alferov / Kroemer / Kilby

2001– present

2001 Cornell / Ketterle / Wieman 2002 Davis / Koshiba / Giacconi 2003 Abrikosov / Ginzburg / Leggett 2004 Gross / Politzer / Wilczek 2005 Glauber / Hall / Hänsch 2006 Mather / Smoot 2007 Fert / Grünberg 2008 Nambu / Kobayashi / Maskawa 2009 Kao / Boyle / Smith 2010 Geim / Novoselov 2011 Perlmutter / Riess / Schmidt 2012 Wineland / Haroche 2013 Englert / Higgs 2014 Akasaki / Amano / Nakamura 2015 Kajita / McDonald 2016 Thouless / Haldane / Kosterlitz 2017 Weiss / Barish / Thorne

v t e

Lucasian Professors of Mathematics

Isaac Barrow
Isaac Barrow
(1664) Isaac Newton
Isaac Newton
(1669) William Whiston
William Whiston
(1702) Nicholas Saunderson
Nicholas Saunderson
(1711) John Colson (1739) Edward Waring
Edward Waring
(1760) Isaac Milner (1798) Robert Woodhouse
Robert Woodhouse
(1820) Thomas Turton
Thomas Turton
(1822) George Biddell Airy
George Biddell Airy
(1826) Charles Babbage
Charles Babbage
(1828) Joshua King
Joshua King
(1839) George Stokes (1849) Joseph Larmor (1903) Paul Dirac
Paul Dirac
(1932) James Lighthill
James Lighthill
(1969) Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
(1979) Michael Green (2009) Michael Cates (2015)

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History of science

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 17350683 LCCN: n50028823 ISNI: 0000 0001 0875 2133 GND: 118679775 SELIBR: 183862 SUDOC: 031145930 BNF: cb12860605f (data) MGP: 18524 NDL: 00437971 SN