Edition: Hardback
ISBN: 9780571222780
Published:
No of pages: 560

Other Editions: Paperback

The Strangest Man

The first full biography of Paul Dirac, the greatest British physicist since Newton - and one of the strangest geniuses of the twentieth century, who may have suffered from autism.

Paul Dirac was a pioneer of quantum mechanics and was regarded as an equal by Albert Einstein. He predicted, purely from what he saw in his equations, the existence of antimatter. The youngest person ever to win the Nobel Prize for Physics, he was also pathologically reticent, strangely literal-minded and almost completely unable to communicate or empathise. His silences were legendary and when he spoke, he betrayed no emotion. Through his greatest period of productivity, his postcards home contained only remarks about the weather. He is said to have cried only once, when his friend Einstein died.

Based on a previously undiscovered archive of family papers in Florida, Graham Farmelo celebrates Dirac's massive scientific achievement while drawing a compassionate portrait of his life and the people around him. Dirac had a traumatic relationship with his family: his brother committed suicide, and he hated his father to the end of his life. His political allegiances were radical. His best friend was the Russian physicist Peter Kapitza, and even at the height of the purges Dirac holidayed in the Soviet Union.

Yet Farmelo also reveals a man who, while seemingly lacking in emotion, could manage to love and father a family. He catches Dirac's absolute belief in the beauty of mathematics with warmth and sympathy. And Farmelo shows that Dirac's eccentricities may well have stemmed from undiagnosed autism.

The Strangest Man is a moving human story, and a study of one of the most exciting times in scientific history.

Tags  

Categorised as: Non-fiction
Sub-categories: Biography & Memoir
Genres & Themes: Eccentrics; Genius; Pioneers; Mathematics; Scientists; Physics
Characters: Paul Dirac

A Beautiful Mind
Sylvia Nasar

At the age of thirty-one, John Nash, mathematical genius, suffered a devastating breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Yet after decades of leading a ghost-like ...

Churchill's Bomb
Graham Farmelo

Churchill's Bomb reveals a new aspect of the great Prime Minister's life, so far completely neglected by historians: his relations with his nuclear ...

Koestler
Michael Scammell

Best-known as the author of the classic Darkness at Noon , Koestler was one of the most influential and controversial intellectuals, involved in and commenting on ...

Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You
Marcus Chown

The two towering achievements of modern physics are quantum theory and Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Together, they explain virtually everything about the world ...

The Last Englishman
Roland Chambers

Arthur Ransome was, from 1930 to the early 1960s, what J. K. Rowling is today: the much-loved author of a series of children’s books ...

Newsletter Sign-up

Keep in touch with all the latest news and events from Faber Social by signing up for the newsletter. Sign up here.

Free UK P&P

On orders over £25.00 (see conditions)