Freeman Dyson Interview

December 27th, 2009 by Lewis Frumkes


Freeman Dyson who has long been a legend at The Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton is a theoretical physicist and mathematician of the first order, a futurist, and a nuclear engineer. British by birth, Dyson studied with Hans Bethe at Cornell before moving to the Institute for Advanced Study.  He is probably best known for demonstrating in 1949 the equivalence of the formulations of quantum electrodynamics that existed at the time— Feynman’s diagrammatic path integral formulation and the operator method developed by Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga for which Schwinger, Feynman, and Tomonaga shared the Nobel Prize. Dyson also did seminal work in topology, analysis, number theory, random matrices and other abstruse topics in mathematics.  On first meeting him Dyson can seem a tad eccentric, subversive, perfectionistic and cantankerous. . . but ultimately with his impish little smile he comes across as quite charming. When I asked him of all the scientists with whom he worked whom he thought possessed true genius, he unhesitatingly answered. . . Richard Feynman.

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