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Coming to Cambridge as a fellow - Wittgenstein


Harold Davenport
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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Davenport was a very, very friendly and delightful person to work with. He was like Hans Bethe, he always had problems that were just very well suited to the student. He could tell somehow, he had this intuition that a particular student could do something that wasn't too difficult and so almost everybody got interesting things to do which they could actually finish, which is a great gift.

[Q] And the initial contact with Davenport came about how?

It was purely just because I happened to be at these seminars at Birkbeck College where he came and, so it was quite accidental and I don't think there was any planning involved, but we immediately took to each other and, well, Davenport was a very generous fellow and it just worked out. And it was the same thing with Hans Bethe, there just are a few people like that who just have a wonderful inexhaustible supply of problems, which is what students need in order to get started.

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: Birkbeck College, Harold Davenport, Hans Bethe

Duration: 1 minute, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008