Paul Dirac (full name: Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac) was an English theoretical physicist and mathematician who is widely regarded to be one of the founders of quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. Noted for his 1928 relativistic quantum theory of the electron, and for predicting of the existence of antiparticles, Dirac shared the 1933 Nobel Prize for Physics with Erwin Schrödinger.
Early Life and Education:
Born on August 8, 1902 in Bristol, England, Paul Dirac’s father was an immigrant from Saint-Maurice, Switzerland who taught French. He attended the Bishop Road Primary School, and later the Merchant Venturers’ Technical College, where his father was a French teacher. Dirac acquired a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Bristol in 1921.
When theory of relativity became famous in 1919, he gained an interest in the technical aspect of relativity. Dirac joined the University of Cambridge as a research student in 1923, where he further developed Heisenberg’s unpublished hypothesis regarding quantum mechanics.
Contributions and Achievements:
Paul Dirac is known as one of the greatest physicists in history. His contributions laid the groundwork for quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. He formulated quantum field theory after reworking his own Dirac equation as a many-body equation. The work predicted the existence of antimatter and matter–antimatter annihilation. Dirac was the first physicist to devise quantum electrodynamics. He also discovered the magnetic monopole solutions.
Dirac was made Lucasian professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge in 1932, where he taught for almost 37 years. He began indepedent research in the area of quantum theory in 1925. A few years later, he published his famous work “The principles of quantum mechanics” (1932), for which he shared the 1933 Nobel Prize for physics with Erwin Schrödinger. He was appointed a fellow of the Royal Society in 1930.
Later Life and Death:
Paul Dirac died on October 20, 1984 in Tallahassee, Florida. He was 82 years old.