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.
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