Paul Dirac Life Lessons

Paul Dirac was one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. He was the 'Einstein' of quantum mechanics. Dirac is famous for a marvelous equation named after him: The Dirac Equation which connects special relativity and quantum mechanics. The equation also predicted the existence of anti-matter. Apart from quantum mechanics, Dirac made valuable contribution to the field of quantum electrodynamics. On his 117th birthday, let us learn 3 important life lessons from Paul Dirac.

1. All your struggles, over which you have no control, can prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Paul had a miserable childhood. His parents hated each other. They were always at each other's throat. So horrible was the family atmosphere that they didn't even have a meal together. Paul had to take a meal with his dad and his other siblings had to eat with their mother. His father was a strict person. He wanted his son to speak French. Paul's mother wanted him to speak English. No one visited their house and hence Paul, once thought that males and females speak different languages! He would be given punishment for committing mistakes while speaking French. All this had a great impact on Paul's personality. He became an introvert. He didn't like mixing with people and would surround himself with his own thoughts.

Also Read: How was quantum physics born?

This is what proved to be a blessing in disguise for the young man. Years later, he would confess, that this introvert nature is the reason why he was able to concentrate on his ideas and prove new things. His solitude was one of the reasons for his success. His childhood miseries were not in his control but they proved to be a blessing in disguise.

2. Your knowledge is far more important than your degree

Paul Dirac

A professional scientist is considered to have more knowledge than a PhD student. A PhD student is believed to have more knowledge than a Master's student and so on. To some extent it might be true but not always. Paul had completely mastered quantum mechanics in 1924 and was already lecturing eminent scientists of that time. He was in close correspondence with Werner Heisenberg whose theory he further developed using rigorous mathematics. Heisenberg was awestruck when he saw Dirac's work. Dirac had already made a name in the world of quantum physics. It was after 2 years, in 1926, when he attained his PhD.

Also Read: What does the Dirac Equation really mean?

3. Work not for fame, awards and honours, but for your inner satisfaction:

Paul was a top level introvert. He didn't like publicity. He worked almost around the clock. Paul wasn't happy how quantum mechanics was being formulated. He had studied Einstein's General Relativity and appreciated it for its mathematical beauty. He wanted to make quantum mechanics more beautiful. For that he worked day and night, till he was satisfied. He never expected any reward in return for his work. Paul wasn't doing all this for recognition or for honours, but for his own happiness and out of his own passion. He reluctantly accepted the Nobel Prize after being told by Ernst Rutherford that refusing it would create more publicity than accepting it. Nevertheless, he turned down most honours including the knighthood offered to him in 1953.

God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world. - Paul Dirac

Also Read: All the 7 articles of Quantum Week series

One thought on “Paul Dirac Life Lessons

  1. It’s interesting how so many unparalleled genuises, like Paul Dirac, are almost completely unknown among the general populace, while persons like Einstein and Hawking, for example, are pop culture icons.

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