Trade in The Strangest Man: The Life of Paul Dirac by Farmelo. Graham ( 2010 ) Paperback for an Amazon Gift Card of up to £4.45, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more
Sid NunciusHALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on 27 Nov 2014
This is a really excellent book. It is fascinating and thoroughly engrossing as well as being funny, touching and very sad in places. Some biographies are worthy and turgid, others full of racy but tenuous speculation. This is neither - Graham Farmelo has a deep affection for this subject but preserves a commendable objectivity. He gives a fine account of Dirac’s life and work in prose which is a pleasure to read and with a perfectly judged leaven of amusing stories and poignant personal revelation.
Dirac was (as you will almost certainly know if you’re considering this book) the greatest English physicist since Newton, and considered to be almost on a par with Einstein. That he is so little known is largely due to his astonishing reticence and at times almost hermit-like attitude to other people. Farmelo gives an excellent account of both the amusing and the sad aspects of this, and in a brief chapter at the end of the book puts forward the idea (meticulously backed by evidence) that Dirac was autistic. It’s very plausible, and I particularly like the way in which he never uses the biography itself to expound this thesis. It’s exemplary biographical writing.
Physicists shouldn’t look to this book to give a detailed account of Dirac’s work – that can be found elsewhere and this is a more general biography, giving an excellent sense of Dirac’s life and why what he did was so important, with what seems to me to be a very well-balanced description of the work for the general reader. Non-physicists needn’t worry too much about the physics – it is kept to a very descriptive level and even if you can’t follow all of it, the book will still give great rewards.
It’s a cracking book, very warmly recommended.
Was this review helpful to you?