Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was born on 8th
August, 1902, at Bristol, England, his father being Swiss and his
mother English. He was educated at the Merchant Venturer's Secondary
School, Bristol, then went on to Bristol University. Here, he
studied electrical engineering, obtaining the B.Sc. (Engineering)
degree in 1921. He then studied mathematics for two years at Bristol
University, later going on to St.John's College, Cambridge,
as a research student in mathematics. He received his Ph.D. degree
in 1926. The following year he became a Fellow of St.John's College
and, in 1932, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge.
Dirac's work has been concerned with the mathematical and
theoretical aspects of quantum mechanics. He began work on the new
quantum mechanics as soon as it was introduced by Heisenberg
in 1928 - independently producing a mathematical equivalent which
consisted essentially of a noncommutative algebra for calculating
atomic properties - and wrote a series of papers on the subject,
published mainly in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, leading up
to his relativistic theory of the electron (1928) and the
theory of holes (1930). This latter theory required the existence of
a positive particle having the same mass and charge as the known
(negative) electron. This, the positron was discovered
experimentally at a later date (1932) by C. D.
Anderson, while its existence was likewise proved by Blackett
and Occhialini (1933 ) in the phenomena of "pair production" and
The importance of Dirac's work lies
essentially in his famous wave equation, which introduced special
relativity into Schrödinger's equation. Taking into account the fact
that, mathematically speaking, relativity theory and quantum theory
are not only distinct from each other, but also oppose each other,
Dirac's work could be considered a fruitful reconciliation between
the two theories.
Dirac's publications include the books
Quantum Theory of the Electron (1928) and The Principles
of Quantum Mechanics (1930; 3rd ed. 1947).
elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1930, being awarded the
Society's Royal Medal and the Copley Medal. He was elected a member
of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1961.
travelled extensively and studied at various foreign universities,
including Copenhagen, Göttingen, Leyden,Wisconsin, Michigan, and Princeton (in 1934, as Visiting
Professor). In 1929,after having spent five months in America, he
went round the world, visiting Japan together with Heisenberg, and
then returned across Siberia.
In 1937 he married Margit
Wigner, of Budapest.
Lectures, Physics 1922-1941.