NBA History of Science Seminar – Niels Bohr Archive

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Niels Bohr Archive > Calendar > 1999-2011 > Graham Farmelo

NBA History of Science Seminar

Graham Farmelo, "Paul Dirac and the religion of mathematical beauty."

Graham Farmelo, Senior Research Fellow, Science Museum, London; Adjunct Professor of Physics, Northeastern University, Boston.

Paul Dirac was the greatest English theoretical physicist since Newton. Dirac is famous for co-discovering quantum mechanics, for his beautiful equation for the behaviour of the electron and for predicting the existence of antimatter.

Although sceptical of philosophy and religion, in later life Dirac became an apostle for the great importance of mathematical beauty in fundamental physics. It was 'like a religion' for him.


In this talk, I shall examine the basis of this belief, together with its successes and failures.