Dirac remains one of the century’s most revered physicists, but he was extremely taciturn.The Interview below – a real find - is markedly different from any other public encounter involving Dirac.What to look out for: The conversation is – as expected - formal and stilted – UNTIL Dirac is asked about beauty.

P.A.M. Dirac.

b. Aug. 8, 1902, Bristol, Gloucestershire, England.
d. Oct. 20, 1984, Tallahassee, Florida, United States.
Shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933 with Erwin Schrodinge


While Werner Heisenberg (see other interview) was discovering the principles of quantum mechanics, Erwin Schrödinger followed a different path to derive his wave mechanics of the atom. P.A.M. Dirac was able to show that the two theories were equivalent.

  • In the process Dirac gave quantum theory a sound mathematical footing.

His contributions in physics also include:

  • The quantum theory of matter and radiation
  • The prediction of the spin of the electron
  • The idea that positrons exist
  • The notion of antimatter
  • An attempt to form a marriage between quantum theory and the theory of relativity.

In 1932 Dirac was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge. (That chair has also been held by Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking).

  • Dirac’s father was Swiss, and taught French at the Merchant Venturer’s Secondary School in Bristol. Young Paul Dirac was a pupil there; he was given increasingly advanced mathematical textbooks, and often worked on his own.
  • Dirac pere refused to speak to Dirac fils, unless they spoke French. It is believed this may have fostered P.A.M. Dirac’s ultra-careful way of expressing himself.

But in fairness, Paul Dirac did have a most incisive mind. He was once intensely impatient with this conventional dialogue:

‘Sugar, Professor Dirac?’

‘Yes, please’.

‘One lump or two?’

He believed the answer ‘Yes please’ implied one lump. Had he wanted two lumps he would have stated so.

History has not recorded the feelings of the poor lady, who had offered sugar in this way all her life.

Dirac’s chief pastime was solitary walks