Simply Dirac looks at the life and work of one of the world’s most accomplished—and strangest—theoretical physicists, Paul Dirac, who was among the founders of quantum mechanics. Written by physics scholar Helge Kragh for a non-academic audience, Simply Dirac is an engaging, accessible, and highly entertaining biography that requires no previous knowledge of physics to fully appreciate the odd life and lasting legacy of a man who revolutionized his field and changed the way we see the world.
Danish historian of science Kragh (Entropic Creation) synthesizes the biographical and intellectual in this concise and considered presentation on Paul Dirac, one of the most important theoretical physicists of the 20th century. Dirac’s interest was in quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics, so to render him “simply” is quite a feat. Nevertheless, Kragh strikes the right balance with the material, situating Dirac in relation to his intellectual environment while speaking to his achievements. A physics background is not necessary for understanding the material, but the subject matter is not the most accessible and there is a lot here that readers may find daunting. Kragh covers Dirac’s successes, including his rendering of q-number algebra for quantum mechanics and his theorizing on antimatter, as well as his misses, such as his still-unproven speculation on monopoles and a seemingly failed evolutionary twist to physics in which constants such as gravity change over time. However, Kragh walks the reader through this uncertain terrain by highlighting Dirac the man and what typified his thought. Although not as famous as some of his contemporaries, Dirac’s life and accomplishments are further illustrated through his personal and professional relationships with luminaries such as Einstein, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger. Kragh goes some way to giving Dirac and his legacy the attention they deserve. (BookLife)