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Persecution at prep school

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Uncle Freeman: the classical scholar
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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The name Freeman comes from?

My uncle Freeman who died in World War I. That was the big tragedy in the family. He had been a classical scholar ­– also a schoolmaster – but a... really a high level classical scholar who... wrote about Hesiod. Hesiod was his particular author and he... I think he'd written a book about Hesiod or at least an edition of Hesiod. He was a serious scholar and he loved teaching kids Latin and Greek classics.

And this is your mother's brother?

That was my mother's brother, so... and so he and my mother were very close friends, and he was also a colleague of my father's and... so that's how they were brought together. After my... after Uncle Freeman died they got married and... so that's how we got... that's how we originated. So the memory of Freeman... the memory of Uncle Freeman was very strong in the family. And I did a lot of Latin and Greek in school and also enjoyed it. It was... I had a... a keen interest in languages, not a... particularly as spoken languages but as literature. So I never was much good at spoken languages, but I loved to read Latin and Greek and... of course, they were taught purely as literary languages, not as spoken languages.

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: WWI, Hesiod

Duration: 1 minute, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008