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Paul Dirac

Paul DiracAKA Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac

Born: 8-Aug-1902
Birthplace: Bristol, Gloucestershire, England
Died: 20-Oct-1984
Location of death: Tallahassee, FL
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Roselawn Cemetery, Tallahassee, FL

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: The Principles of Quantum Mechanics

While studying physics at Cambridge, Paul Dirac was asked to read an unpublished paper by Werner Heisenberg and he was struck by the potentials of the uncertainty principle. He had eleven papers published in scientific journals before earning his doctorate, including a 1925 work that established the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics and brought together the seemingly disparate concepts of Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger.

His 1928 Dirac wave equation predicted the existence of antimatter, but was met with skepticism, as it required the existence of an unknown kind of particle with the same mass and opposite charge to an electron. This particle, the positron, was discovered by physicist Carl David Anderson in 1932, and Schrödinger and Dirac shared the next year's Nobel Prize (Anderson received his Nobel laurels in 1936). Dirac also developed the Fermi-Dirac statistics, and conducted research on the d-function, fundamental length, and the theoretical magnetic monopole. He briefly worked under Niels Bohr at Copenhagen, and his students included Fred Hoyle. His 1933 paper on Lagrangian quantum mechanics was integral to Richard Feynman's later work.

His childhood was bleak, with a father who would now be deemed psychologically abusive, and an older brother who committed suicide while Dirac was in graduate school. Dirac spoke English, French, German and Russian, but not much -- he was famously disinterested in small talk or social niceties, and beyond his brilliant scientific lectures he rarely conversed at length on any topic. His wife Magrit was the sister of Hungarian Nobel physicist Eugene Wigner, and her son (Dirac's adopted stepson) was the mathematician Gabriel Andrew Dirac (1925-84).

Father: Charles Adrien Ladislas Dirac (French language teacher, b. 1866, d. 1936)
Mother: Florence Hannah Holten Dirac (librarian, b. 1878, m. 1899, d. 1941)
Brother: Reginald Charles Felix Dirac (older, d. suicide)
Sister: Beatrice Isabelle Marguerite Walla Dirac (“Betty”, younger)
Wife: Margit Wigner Balasz ("Manci", sister of Eugene Wigner, m. Jan-1937, d. 9-Jul-2002)
Son: Gabriel Andrew Dirac (mathematician, stepson, b. 1925, d. 1984)
Daughter: Judith Dirac Thompson (stepdaughter, b. 1927, d. 1968)
Daughter: Mary Dirac Colleraine Tilley (b. 1940, d. 2007)
Daughter: Monica Dirac Parker

    High School: Merchant Venturers' Secondary School, Bristol, England (1918)
    University: BS Electrical Engineering, University of Bristol (1921)
    University: MS Mathematics, University of Bristol (1923)
    University: PhD Physics, Cambridge University (1926)
    Scholar: University of Copenhagen (1926-27)
    Professor: University of Göttingen (1927)
    Professor: Fellow, University of Cambridge (1927-32)
    Professor: Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, University of Cambridge (1932-59)
    Professor: University of Miami Florida (1969-71)
    Professor: Florida State University (1969-84)

    Nobel Prize for Physics 1933 (with Erwin Schrödinger)
    Royal Medal 1939
    Copley Medal 1952
    Max Planck Medal 1952
    Order of Merit 1973
    Royal Society (1930)
    Russian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member (1931)
    Indian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member (1939)
    Chinese Physical Society Foreign Member (1943)
    Royal Irish Academy Foreign Member (1944)
    Royal Society of Edinburgh Foreign Member (1946)
    Institut de France Foreign Member (1946)
    National Institute of Sciences of India Foreign Member (1947)
    American Physical Society Foreign Member (1948)
    National Academy of Sciences Foreign Member (1949)
    Accademia delle Scienze di Torino Foreign Member (1951)
    Accademia dei Lincei Foreign Member (1960)
    Pontifical Academy of Sciences (1961)
    Royal Danish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member (1962)
    Paris Academy of Sciences Foreign Member (1963)
    Swiss Ancestry (paternal)
    French Ancestry (paternal)
    English Ancestry (maternal)

Author of books:
Quantum Theory of the Electron (1928)
The Principles of Quantum Mechanics (1930)

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