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Being a house guest of Rudolf and Genia Peierls


Relationship with parents
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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Well my parents had been hearing about my successes all the time when I was in America. I wrote letters at least once a week back home to my mother and father and they shared all this, day by day almost. So I mean they were certainly enormously proud and happy that I was doing so well, and of course, England has always been a country of emigrants; nobody thinks badly of you in England because you happen to emigrate. So they're proud of you, so that was true of my parents. And in a way it was easier for them when I was here - when I came back to England it wasn't so easy. I mean, first of all things in Birmingham didn't go so well and I was a bit frustrated and somehow we got along better writing letters than we did face to face at that point. And there was a certain amount of tension about this love affair because Verena was clearly a risky proposition. She'd already been divorced once and with a little girl, she wasn't the kind of daughter-in-law my parents really wanted, and that was fairly clear. I mean that they were willing to accept her but obviously not with great enthusiasm. So that was another barrier between us. So I never felt so close to my parents in England as I did when I was here and writing beautiful letters. Which is quite a common state of affairs I think. So coming back to England was not easy. I love England in many ways but it was already clear at that point that I wasn't going to live there. I had already struck too many roots in America.

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: USA, Birmingham

Duration: 2 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008