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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I knew this stranger and attended his lectures, 22 Dec 2010
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This review is from: The Strangest Man: The Life of Paul Dirac (Paperback)
I attended Dirac's lectures on quantum mechanics in the last year (1966) they were given at Cambridge. Dirac was a careful lecturer. I met him only once, on High Table at St John's College, where he passively ignored my light weight comments. Graham Farmelo has done amazingly well to write such a captivating biography of this enigmatic physicist who was one of the greatest intellects of the twentieth century. I am the biographer of the Cambridge cosmologist Fred Hoyle, Fred Hoyle: A Life in Science whose Ph D in quantumelectrodynamics was supervised by Dirac. There was a curious symmetry about this because Hoyle was always self-propelled and felt he did not want a thesis superviser and Dirac had a dislike for supervising Ph D students, so they got on very well together by not interacting. Dirac must have been influential in getting Hoyle a research Fellowship at St John's. I deeply admire this biography because it has so much to tell us about Dirac, Cambridge, and quantum mechanics. In biographies of 20th century scientists the stage can get very crowded because the biographer must relate how his subject is influenced by discoveries and discoverers elsewhere. Farmelo has a rather good approach to this tricky task. What I got out of this biography was some lessons for myself on how to write a page-turner. I thank the author for that. A small incident is missing. Dirac's textbook The Principles of Quantum Mechanics (International Series of Monographs on Physics), first published in 1930, was rejected by the Syndics of Cambridge University Press on the grounds that the Dirac approach was not generally accepted. So he offered it to the Delegates of Oxford University Press who published it as the first title in their Monographs on Physics. First editions now sell for 500+ I am an enthusiast about this book
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