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Paul Dirac

(1902—1984) theoretical physicist


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(1902–1984)

British physicist, who was awarded the 1933 Nobel Prize for Physics for his contributions to quantum theory. He was appointed to the OM in 1973.

The son of a Swiss father and a British mother, Dirac studied electrical engineering at Bristol University before obtaining a Cambridge PhD in mathematics in 1926. After a short period in the USA, Dirac returned to Cambridge, where he was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from 1932 until his retirement in 1969. He married Margit Wigner, the sister of E. P. Wigner.

In 1928 Dirac established his reputation as a theoretical physicist with an original mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics. This formulation incorporated relativistic effects, enabling Dirac to explain a new range of phenomena. He also predicted the existence of antimatter and the annihilation of antiparticles on collision. The anti-electron, or positron, was discovered in 1932 by C. D. Anderson (1905– ) and the discovery of other particles of antimatter followed. Dirac provided a full account of his work in his Principles of Quantum Mechanics (1930). He was professor emeritus of St John's College, Cambridge, and professor of physics at Florida State University.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics.



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