Paul DIRAC

Family tree of Paul DIRAC

Physicist

EnglishBorn Paul Adrien Maurice DIRAC

English theoretical physicist

Born on August 08, 1902 in Bristol, England , United Kingdom

Died on October 20, 1984 in Tallahassee, Florida, USA

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Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was born at his parents' home in Bristol, England, on 8 August 1902, and grew up in the Bishopston area of the city. His father, Charles Adrien Ladislas Dirac, was an immigrant from Saint-Maurice in the Canton of Valais, Switzerland, who worked in Bristol as a French teacher. His mother, Florence Hannah Dirac, née Holten, the daughter of a ship's captain, was born in Cornwall, and worked as a librarian at the Bristol Central Library. Paul had a younger sister, Béatrice Isabelle Marguerite, known as Betty, and an older brother, Reginald Charles Félix, known as Felix, who committed suicide in March 1925. Dirac later recalled: "My parents were terribly distressed. I didn't know they cared so much. /.../ I never knew that parents were supposed to care for their children, but from then on I knew."



Charles and the children were officially Swiss nationals until they became naturalised on 22 October 1919. Dirac's father was strict and authoritarian, although he disapproved of corporal punishment. Dirac had a strained relationship with his father, so much so that after his death, he wrote, "I feel much freer now, and I am my own man." Charles forced his children to speak to him only in French, in order that they learn the language. When Dirac found that he could not express what he wanted to say in French, he chose to remain silent.

...   Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was born at his parents' home in Bristol, England, on 8 August 1902, and grew up in the Bishopston area of the city. His father, Charles Adrien Ladislas Dirac, was an immigrant from Saint-Maurice in the Canton of Valais, Switzerland, who worked in Bristol as a French teacher. His mother, Florence Hannah Dirac, née Holten, the daughter of a ship's captain, was born in Cornwall, and worked as a librarian at the Bristol Central Library. Paul had a younger sister, Béatrice Isabelle Marguerite, known as Betty, and an older brother, Reginald Charles Félix, known as Felix, who committed suicide in March 1925. Dirac later recalled: "My parents were terribly distressed. I didn't know they cared so much. /.../ I never knew that parents were supposed to care for their children, but from then on I knew."



Charles and the children were officially Swiss nationals until they became naturalised on 22 October 1919. Dirac's father was strict and authoritarian, although he disapproved of corporal punishment. Dirac had a strained relationship with his father, so much so that after his death, he wrote, "I feel much freer now, and I am my own man." Charles forced his children to speak to him only in French, in order that they learn the language. When Dirac found that he could not express what he wanted to say in French, he chose to remain silent.



Dirac was educated first at Bishop Road Primary School and then at the all-boys Merchant Venturers' Technical College (later Cotham School), where his father was a French teacher. The school was an institution attached to the University of Bristol, which shared grounds and staff. It emphasised technical subjects like bricklaying, shoemaking and metal work, and modern languages. This was an unusual arrangement at a time when secondary education in Britain was still dedicated largely to the classics, and something for which Dirac would later express gratitude.



Dirac studied electrical engineering on a City of Bristol University Scholarship at the University of Bristol's engineering faculty, which was co-located with the Merchant Venturers' Technical College. Shortly before he completed his degree in 1921, he sat the entrance examination for St John's College, Cambridge. He passed, and was awarded a £70 scholarship, but this fell short of the amount of money required to live and study at Cambridge. Despite graduating with a first class honours bachelor of science degree in engineering, the economic climate of the post-war depression was such that he was unable to find work as an engineer. Instead he took up an offer to study for a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics at the University of Bristol free of charge. He was permitted to skip the first year of the course owing to his engineering degree.



In 1923, Dirac graduated, once again with first class honours, and received a £140 scholarship from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Along with his £70 scholarship from St John's College, this was enough to live at Cambridge. There, Dirac pursued his interests in the theory of general relativity, an interest he gained earlier as a student in Bristol, and in the nascent field of quantum physics, under the supervision of Ralph Fowler.



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Geographical origins

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