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Pure mathematics at Cambridge: the influence of Besicovitch


Being on the outside
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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[Q] In many ways you were an outsider in many things. In terms of talents, you stand aside from the majority of the boys; in terms of concern for literature, languages, politics, you were somewhat different from most of the boys.

Indeed, that's true. I mean I've almost made a profession of being in a minority. That's true in science, of course, as well. But I always feel uneasy if I happen to be joining the majority.

Freeman Dyson (1923-2020), who was born in England, 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 published several books and, among other honours, was 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: talent, literature, language, majority, minority, outsider, science

Duration: 39 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008