Paul Dirac is regarded by many as being one of the founders of quantum mechanics - a description of the behaviour of matter on a very small scale.
Born in 1902, the British physicist took his first degree at the University of Bristol but spent most of his working life at Cambridge. In 1928 he developed a relativistic theory of the electron, in 1930 he correctly predicted the existence of antimatter and in 1933 he was awarded the Nobel prize.
He was also responsible for much of the mathematical description of quantum mechanics.
Image: Paul Dirac in 1962 at Yeshiva University, New York, USA (credit: SPL)
Dirac seeks to explain the behaviour of matter at a very small scale.
Carl Anderson finds particles predicted by Paul Dirac.
In the early 1930s, Paul Dirac predicted the existence of antimatter, but it wasn't until Carl Anderson detected the mysterious particles that the theory became widely accepted.
Fred Hoyle explains his most important discovery.
Sir Fred Hoyle explains how he discovered that all the heavier elements are created inside stars. This was a major discovery that helped explain the lifecycle of stars.
Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac OM FRS (/dɪˈræk/ di-RAK; 8 August 1902 – 20 October 1984) was an English theoretical physicist who made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. He was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, a member of the Center for Theoretical Studies, University of Miami, and spent the last decade of his life at Florida State University.
Among other discoveries, he formulated the Dirac equation, which describes the behaviour of fermions and predicted the existence of antimatter. Dirac shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1933 with Erwin Schrödinger, "for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory". He also did work that forms the basis of modern attempts to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics.
He was regarded by his friends and colleagues as unusual in character. Albert Einstein said of him, "This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful". His mathematical brilliance, however, means he is regarded as one of the most significant physicists of the 20th century.