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Julian Schwinger's summer school talks


Moving from Cornell to the Institute for Advanced Study
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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The Commonwealth Fellowship, of course, wasn't intended as a PhD course. It was intended just to have two years in America, and in England the PhD system hadn't yet really got its grip on the academic community, so I didn't need a PhD if I stayed in England, so I didn't bother about that. I think if I had stayed at Cornell I couldn't have got the PhD in two years anyway; there were some rules that didn't allow that. So it didn't come into question. So all I did was... in fact, I was nominally a student for a Master's degree which I never took. And then, in fact then, sometime in Spring of '48, Bethe and Oppenheimer got together and arranged that I would spend the second year at the Institute [for Advanced Study] in Princeton instead of Cornell, and I don't know exactly why, or who took the initiative, but in any case, I think Bethe thought it would be quite a good idea for me to get exposed to Oppenheimer and the various other people who were around here. So, anyway, he encouraged me to apply for the Institute and so I did. And so I was set to come to the Institute in the fall of 1948, just to get a fresh look at a different collection of people. And it was of course, for me, it was not such a difficult choice because I was mostly just interested in sightseeing and everybody had heard of Oppenheimer and so it was an opportunity I didn't want to miss, actually to work with Oppenheimer, even though I might have learned more from Feynman if I'd stayed at Cornell.

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: Commonwealth Fellowship, Cornell University, Princeton University, Institute for Advanced Study, Hans Bethe, J Robert Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman

Duration: 1 minute, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008