Paul Dirac

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Paul Dirac

Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac (1902-1984) was a British theoretical physicist who helped develop mathematical expressions of relativistic quantum mechanics. His scientific philosophy was this: "Physical laws should have mathematical beauty and simplicity."

Dirac developed an equation of motion for the wavefunction of the electron based on relativity ("The importance of Dirac's work lies essentially in his famous wave equation, which introduced special relativity into Schrödinger's equation.".[1]) Dirac predicted the existence of the positron, the electron's antiparticle, which was subsequently discovered by Carl Anderson in 1932. Dirac shared the Nobel Prize in 1933 with Erwin Schrödinger.[2] Dirac was the founder of quantum electrodynamics.

Dirac published the "Principles of Quantum Mechanics" in 1930, which introduced the widely used Dirac delta function and bra-ket notation. Inspired in part by this book, the physicist Richard Feynman later proposed a path integral formulation of quantum mechanics in 1948.

Dirac spent most of his career at Cambridge University; he later taught at Florida State University.

Dirac was such an outspoken atheist that fellow physicist Wolfgang Pauli is said to had quipped: "Our friend Dirac also has a religion! The central tenet of his religion is: 'There is no God, and Dirac is His prophet.' "


  1. The Official Web Site of the Nobel Prize: Biography of Paul Dirac
  2. The Official Web Site of the Nobel Prize: The Nobel Prize in Physics 1933 Erwin Schrödinger, Paul A.M. Dirac

Further reading

  • Farmelo, Graham. The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom (2009)