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Relationship with parents

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Verena Haefeli
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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So I had been dimly aware of Verena being here all through that year, and it was only in May of '49, just a month before I had to go back to England that she got into a car accident somewhere in Lakewood, somewhere close to the shore of New Jersey. She was always bumping into things anyway, and so she had to go there for a court hearing or to pay a fine or something, and I agreed to go along just to keep her company and give her some moral support. And so that was when we got to know each other and it went very fast, of course, under the pressure of time. So we got madly in love and then had to have a very sad parting, and I remember being terribly downcast and she actually went off before I did; she had to go for the summer - I don't remember, to Illinois or some place - anyway, then afterwards I left for England. We had this very abrupt meeting and abrupt parting, and then for the next year, when I was in Birmingham and she was in Goucher College teaching, we were exchanging letters almost daily. So it was a sort of a love affair by correspondence, which made life difficult for me in Birmingham and that was why I never really felt at home any more in England, because I had this strong attachment to Verena and it was fairly clear that she wouldn't want to settle in England, that we verified the following year. So in the summer of 1950, then I came back for the summer school at Ann Arbor; in the middle of the two years I was allowed to come back for the summer school and to get married. So we got married in Ann Arbor, then I took her back to England, and then we verified the fact that she wouldn't be happy in England. It was the second year in Birmingham, she was there with the little girl and we were all very miserable and she just didn't acclimatise to England at all. And Katarine was sick most of the time. So the second year was very difficult.

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: 1949, UK, Lakewood, New Jersey, Illinois, Birmingham, Goucher College, 1950, Ann Arbor, Verena Haefeli

Duration: 2 minutes, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008