Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dirac, Paul Adrien Maurice


Born Aug. 8, 1902, in Bristol. British theoretical physicist; one of the founders of quantum mechanics. Member of the London Royal Society (1930).

Dirac studied at Bristol University and then at Cambridge University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1924. In 1932 he became a professor at Cambridge University, occupying the chair that I. Newton occupied. Dirac worked on the so-called transformation theory of quantum mechanics (1926-27) and made a considerable contribution to the development of quantum statistics. In particular, he established a relation between the nature of statistical distribution and the properties of symmetry of wave functions (1925). He constructed a quantum-mechanical theory of the electron that satisfied the requirements of the theory of relativity. Dirac’s theory in a natural manner included the spin in the number of quantum-mechanical characteristics of the electron and made it possible to explain the anomalous Zeeman effect and the fine structure of the spectrum of hydrogen-like atoms. A particularly important result of Dirac’s theory was that it predicted the existence of a particle with the same mass as an electron but with a positive charge. The discovery of the positron in 1932 (later of other antiparticles) and of the processes of the annihilation and creation of pairs brilliantly confirmed Dirac’s theory. A number of Dirac’s papers are devoted to the quantum field theory (1927); in particular, he was the first to apply the method of secondary quantization (1927), which later found extensive application in theoretical physics. Dirac is a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1931) and of a number of foreign academies and scientific societies. He received a Nobel Prize in 1933.


The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, 4th ed. Oxford, 1958.
“The Quantum Theory of Emission and Absorption of Radiation.” Proceedings of the Royal Society A, 1927, vol. 114, no. 767, p 243.
“The Quantum Theory of the Electron.” Ibid., 1928, vol. 117, no. 778, p. 610; vol. 118, p. 351.
“Théorie du positron.” In Rapports et discussions du Conseil physique de I’lnstitut international physique Solvay, vol. 7. Brussels, 1934.
In Russian translation:
“Teoriia elektronov i protonov.” Uspekhifizicheskikh nauk, 1930, vol. 10, nos. 5-6.
“Teoriia elektronov i pozitronov.” In W. Heisenberg, E. Schrödinger, and P. Dirac, Sovremennaia kvantovaia mekhanika: Tri nobelevskikh doklada. Leningrad-Moscow, 1934.
Printsipy kvantovoi mekhaniki. Moscow, 1960.
Lektsii po kvantovoi mekhanike. Moscow, 1968.
Lektsii po kvantovoi teorii polia. Moscow, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.