**Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac** was
born on 8th August, 1902, at Bristol, England, his father being
Swiss and his mother English. He was educated at the Merchant
Venturer's Secondary School, Bristol, then went on to Bristol
University. Here, he studied electrical engineering,
obtaining the B.Sc. (Engineering) degree in 1921. He then studied
mathematics for two years at Bristol University, later going on
to St. John's
College, Cambridge, as a research student in mathematics. He
received his Ph.D. degree in 1926. The following year he became a
Fellow of St.John's College and, in 1932, Lucasian Professor of
Mathematics at Cambridge.

Dirac's work has been concerned with the mathematical and
theoretical aspects of quantum mechanics. He began work on the
new quantum mechanics as soon as it was introduced by Heisenberg in 1925 - independently
producing a mathematical equivalent which consisted essentially
of a noncommutative algebra for calculating atomic properties -
and wrote a series of papers on the subject, published mainly in
the Proceedings of the Royal Society, leading up to his
relativistic *theory of the electron* (1928) and the theory
of holes (1930). This latter theory required the existence of a
positive particle having the same mass and charge as the known
(negative) electron. This, the positron was discovered
experimentally at a later date (1932) by C. D. Anderson, while its existence was
likewise proved by Blackett and
Occhialini (1933 ) in the phenomena of "pair production" and
"annihilation".

The importance of Dirac's work lies essentially in his famous
wave equation, which introduced special relativity into
Schrödinger's equation. Taking into account the fact that,
mathematically speaking, relativity theory and quantum theory are
not only distinct from each other, but also oppose each other,
Dirac's work could be considered a fruitful reconciliation
between the two theories.

Dirac's publications include the books *Quantum Theory of the
Electron* (1928) and *The Principles of Quantum
Mechanics* (1930; 3rd ed. 1947).

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1930, being
awarded the Society's Royal Medal and the Copley Medal. He was
elected a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in
1961.

Dirac has travelled extensively and studied at various foreign
universities, including Copenhagen, Göttingen, Leyden, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Princeton (in
1934, as Visiting Professor). In 1929,after having spent five
months in America, he went round the world, visiting Japan
together with Heisenberg, and then returned across Siberia.

In 1937 he married Margit Wigner, of Budapest.

From *Nobel Lectures, Physics 1922-1941*, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1965

This autobiography/biography was written
at the time of the award and first
published in the book series *Les Prix Nobel*.
It was later edited and republished in *Nobel Lectures*. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.

*Paul A.M. Dirac died on October 20, 1984.*

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1933

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