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Ferromagnetism and spin wave theory

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In the summer of '53, after I had packed up the furniture and left Cornell, and before arriving at Princeton, we had three months in Berkeley where I was invited by Charles Kittel, who was professor of solid state physics, to work on problems which he supplied, and he was a wonderful supplier of problems, like Hans Bethe; he gave me things to think about which were just suited to my abilities. They were problems of a well-defined nature where many particle systems could be handled by the techniques that I had developed for quantum electrodynamics. So it was the first time that we applied what later came to be called the Green Function methods in solid state physics. And I did first of all a problem of a ferromagnetic resonance in metals, of spin resonance in metals, and then the next time I was there, two years later, I did a major study of spin waves, which was one of the main things that I am proud of, this general theory of spin waves. In fact it was a very beautiful piece of mathematics, everything worked just marvellously, just as beautiful as quantum electrodynamics - not as important but still, from my point of view, just as satisfying. So I was able to deal with spin waves in a very elegant and systematic way.

Born in England in 1923, Freeman Dyson moved to Cornell University after graduating from Cambridge University with a BA in Mathematics. He subsequently became a professor and worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology. He has published several books and, among other honours, has been awarded the Heineman Prize and the Royal Society's Hughes Medal.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Tags: 1953, Cornell University, Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton University, Berkeley, Green Function Methods, Charles Kittel, Hans Bethe

Duration: 1 minute, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008