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Working practice


The difficulty of getting anything started
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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I find with me that the difficult part is before you get started. I think that's true of everybody probably, but once you're in the middle of a calculation and it's really flowing, it doesn't matter; you can get interrupted and you get back to it easily once you have the momentum; but I get very, very nervous if I'm trying to figure out how to do it at the beginning, before I've really got started, and then if somebody interrupts I get angry and the day is ruined. And that's true of writing as well, of course, that when I'm writing the difficult part is always before you 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: writing, problems, working

Duration: 47 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008