Dyson, Freeman John

Dyson, Freeman John dīˈsən [key], 1923–2020, British-American theoretical physicist and mathematician, studied Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., 1945) and Cornell. He did bomber operations research for the Royal Air Force during World War II before beginning his career as versatile, wide-ranging mathematical physicist. Associated with the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (1948–49) and the Univ. of Birmingham, England (1949–51), he became a professor at Cornell (1951–53) despite not having completed his doctorate; for the rest of his career he was a professor at Institute for Advanced Study (emeritus from 1994). His most significant work was his 1949 paper on quantum electrodynamics (QED), The Radiation Theories of Tomonaga, Schwinger, and Feynman, which demonstrated the unity underlying their approaches to QED. He also made contributions to astrophysics, biology, ferromagnetism, solid-state physics, rocketry, and nuclear weapons research. At General Atomics (1956–59), he headed a team that designed Triga, a low-powered nuclear reactor used in nuclear medicine. Dyson also speculatively proposed the Dyson Sphere, an enormous structure built around a star to harness its energy, and was a noted skeptic concerning aspects of climate change. Among his numerous works are Disturbing the Universe (1979), Weapons and Hope (1984), Origins of Life (1986), Infinite in All Directions (1988), Imagined Worlds (1997), The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet (1999), The Scientist as Rebel (2006), and A Many-Colored Glass (2007). He was a member of the Royal Society and the National Academy of Sciences.

See his Maker of Patterns, a memoir based on his letters (2018); biography by P. F. Schewe (2014); K. Brower, The Starship and the Canoe (1978), and S. S. Schweber, QED and the Men Who Made It (1994).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Physics: Biographies