August 8, 2012 AT 8:21 am

Happy Birthday Paul Dirac!

Today would have been quantum physics rock star Paul Dirac‘s 110th birthday! Excerpt from the Nobel website:

Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was born on 8th August, 1902, at Bristol, England, his father being Swiss and his mother English. He was educated at the Merchant Venturer’s Secondary School, Bristol, then went on to Bristol University. Here, he studied electrical engineering, obtaining the B.Sc. (Engineering) degree in 1921. He then studied mathematics for two years at Bristol University, later going on to St. John’s College, Cambridge, as a research student in mathematics. He received his Ph.D. degree in 1926. The following year he became a Fellow of St.John’s College and, in 1932, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge.

Dirac’s work has been concerned with the mathematical and theoretical aspects of quantum mechanics. He began work on the new quantum mechanics as soon as it was introduced by Heisenberg in 1925 – independently producing a mathematical equivalent which consisted essentially of a noncommutative algebra for calculating atomic properties – and wrote a series of papers on the subject, published mainly in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, leading up to his relativistic theory of the electron (1928) and the theory of holes (1930). This latter theory required the existence of a positive particle having the same mass and charge as the known (negative) electron. This, the positron was discovered experimentally at a later date (1932) by C. D. Anderson, while its existence was likewise proved by Blackett and Occhialini (1933 ) in the phenomena of “pair production” and “annihilation”.

Among EEs, Dirac is best known for the Dirac delta function, which is a fundamental building block in sampling and signal processing.

Shine on, you crazy diamond!

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