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Verena Haefeli


Falling in love with Verena Haefeli
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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Well, then I fell in love with Verena who was a mathematician member, also at the Institute, who was interested in foundations of mathematics and had been a student in Switzerland, in Zurich. She had lived in Switzerland during the war and had studied with Speiser and knew a lot of group theory. She was a serious mathematician, and at that time there were three outstanding women at the Institute, all very young and rather glamorous figures: Sheila Powers who came from Ireland, Cécile Morette from France, and Verena Haefeli who came from Switzerland. I fell in love with Verena and just in the last month. So we had a tumultuous getting acquainted and I was also infatuated with her little daughter Katarine who was then four years old, and I loved Katarine and she was also badly needing a father. But then I had to rush home to England, so we never managed to decide what we were going to do. We sort of decided more or less we would probably get married but it was left hanging.

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: Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, Switzerland, Zurich, Verena Haefeli-Huber, Andreas Speiser, Sheila Powers, Cécile DeWitt-Morette

Duration: 1 minute, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008