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The Strangest Man: The hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius Paperback – 7 Jan 2010
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`Superb biography.' --Observer
`A sensitive study of a complicated genius.' --Sunday Times
`[Dirac] is fortunate to have Farmelo as his biographer.' --Guardian
`Dirac should be more widely recognised. Luckily for the reader, he is interesting enough in his own right that doing so is a pleasure.' --The Times Paperback of the Week
`Masterful biography ... a deeply humane portrait.' --Irish Times
`Sympathetic biography ... makes one warm to this complicated man of deep feeling but limited expression.' --Independent on Sunday
`Deserves plaudits for balancing a technical account of Paul Dirac's work with a sensitive story of a peculiar person ... commendable portrait.' --Daily Telegraph
'This is a beautifully written, remarkable biography of a remarkable man. It paints a sensitive portrait of his character, puts into words his science in a way that will capture every reader's attention and memorably conveys Dirac's achievement.'
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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The author obviously wanted to give a balanced viewpoint and also inspire the audience to read Dirac's great books.
Dirac's achievements, grounded as they are in advanced mathematics, are difficult to explain to non-scientists, but the author succeeds admirably and his clear explanations enable the general reader to appreciate even the most abstract concepts. Anecdotes about Dirac are part of the folklore of physics, but this book contains a wealth of documented facts and information that I for one was unaware of. The most surprising (for me) was Dirac's experimental work on isotope separation. Above all there emerges from the book a strong impression of what drove Dirac in his endless search for perfection as he saw it. Needless to say, he was not satisfied that he had achieved this (even towards the end of his life saying to one person that his life had been a failure!), but his ideas remain as important as ever. Suggestions he made, long overlooked, are still proving to be fruitful today.
The author obviously has great admiration for his subject, but this does not prevent him honestly evaluating Dirac, both his towering scientific achievements and where he had lack of vision; as well as his deficiencies as a human being. Farmelo has produced a superb book, beautifully written and meticulously researched. It is writing of a very high order, which is surely destined to be the definitive biography of Dirac for the foreseeable future.
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