Freeman Dyson (1923-2020): A personal remembrance

Ashutosh Jogalekar in The Curious Wavefunction:

No doubt much will be written about this remarkable man who was one of the leading scientific and literary lights of the 20th century. His imagination and contributions ranged over an entire universe of disciplines – pure and applied mathematics, theoretical and particle physics, game theory, nuclear reactor and spaceship design, origins of life, space exploration and astrophysics, genetic engineering – whose only unifying thread seemed to be the diversity of ideas they contained. Most of these he explored in rigorous scientific papers with reams of mathematics; some of these he explored in elegant prose written for the general public. He made groundbreaking contributions to an untold variety of fields, and as evidenced on his 90th birthday celebration, even his “minor” contributions would start ten or twenty year explorations. His many books contain deep humanism and originality and speak to uncommon wisdom, and they introduced an entire generation of non-scientific readers to the wonders of science. For Freeman diversity was the predominant, celebratory feature of the universe and human life.

It seems like only yesterday, but it’s been twenty years since I first saw a strange, dusty book in the recesses of the college library titled “Disturbing the Universe“, written by an author whose name I had never heard. The book was utterly captivating, and it displayed both a clarity and an eloquence that I had never seen in scientific writing before. Even now it remains one of the best introductions to the mind, life and credo of a working scientist who also embodies unusual humanity and sensitivity to human affairs. In crystal clear prose and often quoting the great poets and writers, Dyson described his journey in physics, engineering, arms disarmament, genetic engineering and other fields.

But the book is also a portrait gallery of the people he met on his way.

More here.