Stirling Lecture 2010

November 9, 2010

The Stirling Lecture for 2010 is to be given by Graham Farmelo. The lecture is entitled “Paul Dirac and the religion of mathematical beauty” and will be given in Calman Learning Centre 202, Science Laboratories on Thursday 9th December at 5.15pm.
Graham Farmelo is a Bye Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge. He edited the best-selling “It Must be Beautiful: Great Equations of Modern Science” in 2002. His biography of Paul Dirac, “The Strangest Man”, won the 2009 Costa Biography Prize and the 2010 Los Angeles Times Science Book Prize.
Paul Dirac, sometimes called ‘the first truly modern theoretical physicist’, was obsessed by mathematical beauty. He believed that our fundamental understanding of the universe advanced by theories of successively greater aesthetical appeal, an idea he enshrined in his principle of mathematical beauty, which he regarded as being ‘like a religion’.
In this talk, Farmelo will look at the early origins of Dirac’s obsession with beauty, and the progress he made in turning it into a useful concept in physics. He will also examine the singular personality of ‘the strangest man’, as Bohr called him.
The Stirling lecture is an annual series in honour of the IPPP’s Founding Director, Professor James Stirling CBE FRS.