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 Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac

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Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac

Birth
Bristol, Bristol Unitary Authority, Bristol, England
Death 20 Oct 1984 (aged 82)
Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida, USA
Burial Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida, USA
Plot Block G, Section 32, Space 34
Memorial ID 20615 View Source
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Nobel Prize Recipient. Paul A.M. Dirac received international notoriety after receiving the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics. He shared jointly the covet award with Austrian scientist Erwin Schrödinger, and according to the Nobel Prize committee, "for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory." He received three nominations for the Nobel candidacy. Born to a Swiss father, who was a French teacher, and an English mother, who was a librarian, his primary education was in local schools and with no hope for college, later a technical school. Since he was born to a Swiss citizen, he became a naturalized British subject on October 22, 1919. He was the middle of three children. His strict father made his children speak French at home to learn a second language, thus he would not speak if he did not know the word in French to avoid humiliating long pauses in mid-sentence searching for the right word. This habit of long pauses in mid-sentence followed him through adulthood. He did not enjoy social small talk and stated, “I was taught never to start a sentence without knowing the end of it.” He mastered English, French, German and the Russian languages. He earned an Engineering degree from Bristol University in 1921 on a City of Bristol University Scholarship, graduating with honors. After graduation, he was unable to find employment with a depressed economy. Although he passed the entrance exam at St. John’s College at Cambridge, the small scholarship he had received did not cover the expenses to pursue a doctorate degree. At this point, he continued his free classes at Bristol University, receiving in 1924 a Bachelors of Arts degree with honors. Receiving another scholarship, he entered St. John’s College, graduating in 1926, majoring in mathematics. His thesis paper on quantum mechanics was the first on this subject ever to be published anywhere. He began work on the new quantum mechanics, producing a mathematical equation, which led up to his relativistic theory of the electron. After postgraduate studies in Germany, he was a visiting professor in 1929 at the University of Wisconsin in the United States. He was a Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge from 1932 to 1969. The influence and importance of his research in gravity have increased with the decades, and today, physicists are still using his concepts and equations. He traveled around the world lecturing and studying with other scientists. While in the United States, he became a member of the Center for Theoretical Studies at the University of Miami in Florida. After being a visiting professor in 1971, he spent the last decade of his life as a professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. While at FSU, he published eleven papers with his last in 1984 addressing the inadequacies and his final judgment on quantum field theory along with a 69-page book, which summarizes Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity. Early in his career, Einstein had stated that Dirac was either “a genius or a madman.” His other publications include the books “Quantum Theory of the Electron” in 1928 and “The Principles of Quantum Mechanics “ in 1930; 3rd edition in 1947. Starting in 1997, FSU awards The Dirac-Hellman Award to those who have done exceptional research in theoretical physics, and the science library on campus was named in 1989 the Paul A.M. Dirac Science Library. In 1975 while visiting the University of New South Wales in Australia, he gave a series of five lectures, which were published three years later as a book “Directions in Physics.” His childhood home was marked with a British Blue plaque. Although first denied for Dirac’s lack of religious belief, on November 13, 1995 a commemorative marker, made from Burlington green slate and inscribed with the Dirac equation, was unveiled in Westminister Abbey in London. After visiting the USSR ten times since 1928, in 1946 he was the first person of 34 to nominate the Russian scientist Pyotr L Kapitsa, as a Nobel Prize candidate; Kapitsa received the award in 1978. In 1937 he married Margit Wigner Balaz, the sister of 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics recipient, Eugene Wigner. Dirac formally adopted his wife’s son and daughter from a previous marriage and change their surname to Dirac. He and his wife had two daughters. His wife was the organizer in the family and helped him to publish eleven scientific papers between 1939 and 1946. Besides the Nobel Prize, his honors include the Royal Medal in 1939, the Copley Medal and Max Planck Medal in 1953, and was the first to receive the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize in 1969. Being very modest, he had previously refused knighthood but received the British Order of Merit in 1973. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society, Institute of Physics, and American Physical Society.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 27 Feb 2001
  • Find a Grave Memorial 20615
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/20615/paul-adrien_maurice-dirac : accessed ), memorial page for Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac (8 Aug 1902–20 Oct 1984), Find a Grave Memorial ID 20615, citing Roselawn Cemetery, Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .