Freeman Dyson: autobiographical notes

In 1955 Freeman Dyson was asked to provide a concise biography to attach to an article he was publishing in Scientific American. Here is what he wrote about himself:-


Born England in 1923. Son of Sir George Dyson, professional musician.
Started off with an appetite for mathematics and astronomy from the age of six.
Studied mainly mathematics at Cambridge University.
Spent the last two years of the war at headquarters of R.A.F. Bomber Command doing operations research. Investigated causes of bomber losses in night operations.
Found this a frustrating experience, scientific honesty only rarely being allowed to prevail over political expediency.
Decided to make a fresh start after reading the Smyth Report in the fall of 1945, thinking that physics would be the major stream of scientific progress during the next 25 years.
Also encouraged to be a physicist by the discovery that physics was in more of a mess than mathematics or astronomy.
Came to America with a Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in 1947 and learnt most of the physics I know from Professors Bethe and Feynman at Cornell University.
Was lucky to arrive and start research in the exciting days of 1947 when the Lamb-Retherford experiment was new and Bethe and Feynman were busy understanding it.
This determined the direction of all my subsequent work.
Studied for a time at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and married one of the mathematicians there.
I am now back at Cornell as Professor of Physics.


JOC/EFR August 2006

The URL of this page is:
http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Extras/Dyson_autobiography.html