University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Abigail and John Van Vleck Lectures

Freeman J. Dyson, the twenty-first Van Vleck Lecturer, is Professor of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Professor Dyson has received many awards during his distinguished scientific career, including the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1981. He has made seminal contributions to quantum electrodynamics, and the theory of interacting electrons and photons. He explained the equivalence of two approaches to the theory put forward independently by Schwinger and Feynman. In another of his famous works, Professor Dyson developed the theory of randon matrices, which describes random energy spectra of complex systems: nuclei, atoms and small particles of metals and insulators.

Professor Dyson was born in Crowthorne, Berkshire, England on December 15, 1923. He attended Winchester College from 1936-41 and the University of Cambridge 1941-43. During World War II, he served as a civilian doing Operations Research at Headquarters, RAF Bomber Command. Following the war, Dyson returned to Cambridge, receiving a B.A. in Mathematics in 1945, and then held the position of Fellow of Trinity College, 1946-47. In 1951, Professor Dyson joined the faculty at Cornell, and in 1953 he began his long and distinguished career in Princeton.

Professor Dyson has written a number of books and popular scientific articles for magazines, in particular Scientific American and the New Yorker. He was commissioned by the Science Book Program of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to write "Disturbing the Universe", published by Harper and Row in 1979, and translated into 7 languages. He wrote "Weapons and Hope", Harper and Row, 1984; "Origins of Life", Cambridge University Press, 1986; "Infinite in All Directions", Harper and Row, 1988. Professor Dyson received the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science for this work. Dyson appeared in the PBS television program "The Day After Trinity" in 1981. He has been honored with the National Book Critics Award for non-fiction, 1984, the Gemant Award by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) for "creative work in the arts and humanities that derived from a deep knowledge of and love for physics", 1988, and the Britannica Award for dissemination of knowledge, 1990.

In addition to the Wolf Prize, Professor Dyson has received numerous awards for his research, including the AIP Danny Heineman Prize, 1965; Lorentz Medal of the Royal NetherlandsAcademy, 1966; Hughes Medal of the Royal Society, London, 1968; Max Planck Medal of the German Physical Society, 1969; the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize, 1970, and the Harvey Prize, 1977. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1952, and Member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, 1964. He has received 12 Honorary Degrees from around the world.

Professor Dyson has performed consulting services for U.S. government agencies particularly in the space and defence areas. He has served as Chairman of the Federation of American Scientists, 1962-63, and was a member of the National Research Commission on Life Sciences, 1989-91.