Top Nav

Dirac was a strange fusion of genius and madness

Jul 16, 2019 14 comments
Paul Dirac Famous Anecdotes

Paul Dirac, one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century, was a very quiet man, so much so, that his colleagues in Cambridge jokingly defined a unit of speech called "dirac", which meant one word per hour!

But whenever he did a little bit of speaking, Dirac used to extend his abstract thinking to interpret the world literally. This inevitably led him to being an anecdote generator throughout his life and many stories about him abound.

Why do you dance?

In 1929, Dirac and Heisenberg were on board a ship to Japan for attending annual science conference. Werner Heisenberg who happened to be quite a ladies man, used to dance with the young girls on the ship before dinners, while Dirac used to sit watching.

Paul Dirac and Werner Heisenberg Anecdote

One such evening, Dirac asked, "Heisenberg, why do you dance?"

"When there are nice girls, dancing with them is a pleasure," Heisenberg replied.

Dirac pondered this notion for a while, then blurted out: "But, how do you know beforehand that the girls are nice?"

Heisenberg burst out with laughter.

Physics versus poetry

Dirac and Oppenheimer spent some time together in Göttingen. The two young physicists from different parts of the world had become good friends. Then, in one of these days, Dirac noticed that Oppenheimer wrote poetry.

Dirac asserted, "Robert, I do not understand how a man can work on the frontiers of physics and write poetry at the same time."

Paul Dirac, Robert Oppenheimer Poetry Anecdote

"Why not?" Oppenheimer asked.

"In physics, you want to tell something that nobody knew before, in words which everyone can understand. In poetry, however, you go on to describe something that everybody knows about, in incomprehensible ways."

Oppenheimer was left too confused to respond to that.

"You see," Dirac went on to say, "The two are incompatible!"

His comments would strike people as odd at first but they would quickly realize that Dirac made perfect logical sense.

Finish this sentence

Once, Dirac and Bohr were seated in the same room. Niels Bohr, known for being a perfectionist, was writing a scientific paper while mumbling at the same time as was his habit.

Niels Bohr and Paul Dirac Anecdote

After some time, Bohr became really frustrated and stopped. He complained, “I do not know how to finish this damn sentence!”

Dirac retorted, "I was taught at school, never to start a sentence without knowing the end of it."

Dirac said something so profound, with such a straight face, that Bohr went on to comment, "Dirac was the strangest man who ever visited my institute!"

I have an equation

American physicist, Richard Feynman, born in 1918, grew up idolizing Dirac. About 40 years later, they met in Poland at a conference. Richard Feynman, by then a theoretical physicist himself, was building upon Dirac's great work.

Paul Dirac and Richard Feynman in Poland discussing QED

Feynman, the chatty one, spoke at length, as he wanted to describe new ideas to his hero. Dirac, perhaps intimidated by Feynman's over-enthusiasm, remained quiet all along.

Feynman started to see that it was extremely difficult to get anything out of Dirac. But then, after a long silence, Dirac says, "I have an equation. Do you have one too?"

Dirac also went on to explain as to why he spoke so little, “There are always more people willing to speak than there are to listen.”

That wasn't a question

In 1932, Dirac was appointed the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. During one lecture in class, a student raised his hand and said, "I don't understand the equation on the top-right-hand corner of the blackboard."

Dirac simply nodded his head in agreement and continued unabated. When asked again, he expressed puzzlement because he thought the student had simply uttered a fact and not asked a question.

Summing up

Paul Dirac knew not when to say what. He remained merry in his own company but suffered agonies if forced into any kind of socializing or small talk.

His colleagues  in Cambridge described him as a “lean, meek, shy young fellow who goes slyly along the streets, walks quite close to the walls, like a thief, and is not at all healthy.”

Personality of Paul Dirac

Even Einstein (who himself was quite bizarre) had once said, "I have a lot of trouble with Dirac. This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful!"

Dirac quantised the gravitational field, formulated the most logically perfect presentation of quantum mechanics and predicted the existence of anti-matter. At the same time, he was also equally famous for his strange, unapologetic behavior.


  1. Interesting topic, but it's written like a high school essay.

  2. I'm grateful to Dirac.

    He hypothesized the existence of antimatter. Contrary to the perception of the majority of scientists who believe non existence of antimatter in the universe, I have proved and confirmed the existence of antimatter.

    I have studied, extensively, the physics of antimatter meteors, which may cause the ball lightning phenomenon, when antimatter meteorites enter in the earth's atmosphere and disappear, reacting in a process of annihilation with atmospheric molecules. In addition, phenomena that resisted explanation for quite a long time have been explained.

    Paul Adrian Maurice Dirac was born in this house of Bristol on MONK Street no. 15. He derived a simple equation which doubled the particles, introducing the antimatter counterpart particle for every particle that exists in nature. Thus, the proton with a positive charge has the antiproton with negative charge but equal mass, the neutron has the antineutron but opposite spin, and the electron has the positron. Accordingly, mesons have antimesons, neutrinos have antineutrinos, and baryons have the antibaryons.

    Dirac lived in this house until he was 21 years old. The photo was taken in my visit during August of 2009.

  3. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here... The Genius Friends

  4. Nice one for taking a few minutes to talk about this amazing, I think highly concerning it as well as absolutely love browsing regarding the issue. Any time prospects, because you gain skill, what views posting to the journal by having added data? This is very helpful for everyone. nagapoker

  5. Appreciating the time and energy you put into your website and in depth information you provide. It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed information. Great read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account. nagapoker

  6. I admire this article for the well-researched content and excellent wording.I got so involved in this material that I couldn’t stop reading.I am impressed with your work and skill.Thank you so much. dewapoker

  7. Hey There. I found your blog using Google. This is a very well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return. nagapoker

  8. Very good written article. It will be supportive to anyone who utilizes it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing – can’r wait to read more posts. best porn network

  9. If only my personal content articles appeared as if this particular! That’s a enhance, btw?-I ‘m new to blog publishing as well as reading numerous blogs helps me out with my very own. Any info you could throw my way to help is very appreciated. Thanks for the great info on this particular post! Reusable Surgical disposable face masks

  10. This is really a nice and informative, containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Check it out here:
    The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred was good. Thanks for sharing this:
    This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information...
    Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep here: with new updates. Its was really valuable. Thanks a lot.
    This one is good.Graphic desing

  11. What's that about the quantization of the gravitational field???

  12. Thank you for this amazing piece.


Post a Comment

Related Posts


{{posts[0].date}} {{posts[0].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}


{{posts[1].date}} {{posts[1].commentsNum}} {{messages_comments}}

Contact Form