Privatdozent Photo Edition #3
Dirac, Oppenheimer & Millikan (1935)
When physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-67) visited the University of Göttingen in 1926-27, his visit overlapped the stays of, among others, John von Neumann (1902-57) and Paul Dirac (1902-84). Dirac arrived during the winter term of 1927 and moved into the same villa as Oppenheimer. Dirac was two years older and had just completed his seminal paper on the principles of quantum mechanics. The two became close friends. Oppenheimer later stated about Dirac that he “was not easily understood, not concerned with being understood” adding “I thought he was absolutely grand”.
When later confronted with a statement from Robert that he saw more of him than anyone else in Göttingen, Dirac is to have replied with characteristic mercuriality that
“That is so. We sometimes went for long walks together, although I had many walks alone”.
The photo above is from 1935. By that time Oppenheimer was a Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley while Dirac had become the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (the chair previously held by Newton, later held by Stephen Hawking) at Cambridge University.
Related Privatdozent newsletters:
The Eccentricities of J. Robert Oppenheimer, May 19th 2021
The Golden Age of Quantum Physics, Sep 3rd 2021
The Mathematical Center of the Universe, Aug 8th 2021
When Feynman met Dirac, Apr 5th 2021
Oppenheimer’s Letter of Recommendation for Richard Feynman (1943), May 22nd 2021
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Disclosure: The photograph has been colourized for effect. Send inquiries about unwanted use/copyright claims to privatdozent @ protonmail.com.