- NAME: P.A.M. Dirac
- OCCUPATION: Educator, Mathematician, Physicist, Academic Author
- BIRTH DATE: August 08, 1902
- DEATH DATE: October 20, 1984
- EDUCATION: Bishop Primary School, St. John's College, Merchant's Venture Secondary School, Bristol University, University of Cambridge
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Bristol, England, United Kingdom
- PLACE OF DEATH: Tallahassee, Florida
- Full Name: Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac
- AKA: Paul Dirac
- AKA: Paul A.M. Dirac
- AKA: P.A.M. Dirac
Best Known For
Physicist and mathematician P.A.M Dirac, who helped found quantum electrodynamics, is known for the Dirac equation and his prediction of antiparticles. He won the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics with Erwin Schrödinger.
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P.A.M Dirac was born on August 8, 1902, in Bristol, England. In 1926, he developed the first complete, formal mathematical representation of quantum mechanics. In 1928, he published the Dirac equation. In 1933, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Dirac left his professorship at the University of Cambridge in 1969, and accepted another in 1971 at Florida State University. He died in Tallahassee, Florida, on October 20, 1984.
"One should allow oneself to be led in the direction which the mathematics suggests ... one must follow up a mathematical idea and see what its consequences are, even though one gets led to a domain which is completely foreign to what one started with ...Mathematics can lead us in a direction we would not take if we only followed up physical ideas by themselves."
"God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world."
"I was taught at school never to start a sentence without knowing the end of it."
"A good deal of my research in physics has consisted in not setting out to solve some particular problem, but simply examining mathematical equations of a kind that physicists use and trying to fit them together in an interesting way, regardless of any application that the work may have. It is simply a search for pretty mathematics. It may turn out later to have an application. Then one has good luck. I consider that I understand an equation when I can predict the properties of its solutions, without actually solving it."
"I learned to distrust all physical concepts as the basis for a theory. Instead one should put one's trust in a mathematical scheme, even if the scheme does not appear at first to be connected with physics. One should concentrate on getting interesting mathematics."
Physicist and mathematician P.A.M. Dirac was born Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac to a British mother and a Swiss father on August 8, 1902, in Bristol, England. His father, a French teacher, was harsh—not only with his students, but to P.A.M. and his two siblings. As a result, P.A.M. was a shy child who would grow into a socially awkward adult.
During his school days at Bishop Primary School and Merchant's Venture Secondary School, Dirac showed a prodigal gift for math. After graduating from secondary school, in 1918 Dirac enrolled at Bristol University, entering the school's Electrical Engineering Program and graduating first in his class in 1921. Unable to find a job upon graduating, for the next two years, Dirac studied math at Bristol, becoming a mathematics research student at the University of Cambridge afterward. By 1926, he'd received his Ph.D. from Cambridge. A year later, he assumed a fellowship at St. John's College.
Using his research grant at St. John's, P.A.M. Dirac began puzzling over a mathematical equivalent of Werner Heisenberg's new quantum mechanics. Dirac wrote several papers explaining his use of non-communicative algebra to calculate the properties of an atom. In 1926, Dirac used the matrix approach in combination with wave mechanics to develop the first complete, formal mathematical representation of quantum mechanics. In the process, he managed to pioneer Fermi-Dirac statistics, which extrapolated on Enrico Fermi's earlier theories.
After concluding that the fundamental laws of atomic particles are probabilistic, Dirac shifted his attention to developing his 1927 quantum theory of radiation. His theory gave birth to the concept of quantum electrodynamics. In 1928, he published the most significant feat of his career, the electron's relativistic wave equation, called the Dirac equation. His theory of the electron, as well as his prediction of antiparticles, became Dirac's major claims to fame. His theories were not without their snags, however.
In the early 1930s, Dirac came up with the "many-time formulation" as a means of solving problems in his earlier theories of quantum electrodynamics. In 1932, he accepted a mathematics professorship at Cambridge. A year later, he was co-awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics with Erwin Schrödinger. In 1934, Dirac pioneered the concept of vacuum polarization.
In 1937, Dirac married a Hungarian woman named Margit Wigner, whose brother was famed physicist Eugene Wigner; the couple raised Margit's children from a previous marriage, Judith and Gabriel.
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