The Casual Dirac

Paul Dirac reclining in grass
Paul Dirac reclining in grass. Paul Dirac Papers.

The Paul A.M. Dirac Papers are a terrific source of information about the public, scholarly side of Paul Dirac: the lecturer, the genius mathematician, a theorist among theorists. However, in our eagerness to honor someone’s professional achievements, it’s easy to gloss over the rest of their personality, the private figure that coexists with the public one.

Collections of personal papers also afford a chance to see, well, the personal side of that someone. The considerable extent of photographs in the Dirac Papers can bring the familiar Dirac, the friend, the father, the person, to those unfamiliar with him. In honor of Dirac’s 119th birthday on August 8th this year, we present the following images, a sample of the casual, quotidian Dirac.

Dirac the Traveler

Like all of us, Paul Dirac liked to vacation. He often found himself traveling for enjoyment or for professional reasons. The Dirac Papers are replete with images of Dirac, his family, and his friends traveling to all kinds of places by all kinds of means.

Paul Dirac (in party hat) and Manci Dirac (together at left) join other guests at the captain’s table of the SS America, April 1963. Paul Dirac Papers.
Dirac the Family Man

Paul Dirac married Margit “Manci” Wigner in 1937. He adopted her two children, and they eventually had two more daughters as well. Like anyone, Dirac spent quality time with his immediate family, in-laws, and grandchildren, and we’re lucky enough to have evidence in abundance at FSU Libraries.

Dirac Family seated beneath a tree, Paul Dirac Papers.
Paul Dirac and granddaughters swimming in Miami, 1970. Paul Dirac Papers.
Judith, Paul, and Manci Dirac, with Manci’s parents Elisabeth and Anthony Wigner, in Hungary, circa 1940. Paul Dirac Papers.
Dirac the College Buddy

Paul Dirac studied at several institutions of higher learning. After completing his landmark dissertation at University of Cambridge, Dirac did post-doctoral studies at Göttingen, under German physicist and mathematician Max Born. Like many a post-doc, Dirac formed lifelong friendships there, with physics luminaries-to-be such as Yoshikatsu Sugiura and J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Paul Dirac, Yoshikatsu Sugiura, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and others at Max Born’s home in Göttingen, 1927. Paul Dirac Papers.
Paul Dirac, Yoshikatsu Sugiura, and J. Robert Oppenheimer, in Göttingen, 1927. Paul Dirac Papers.

See the sources cited below to learn more about Paul Dirac the person, as well as Paul Dirac the Nobel Laureate mathematician and quantum physicist.

If you know of further sources that can help Special Collections & Archives educate about Paul Dirac and develop our collections, please contact us at

Sources and Further Reading

Farmelo, G. (2009). The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life Of Paul Dirac, Mystic Of The Atom. Basic Books.

Paul A.M. Dirac Collection, FSU Digital Library.

Paul A. M. Dirac Papers, Special Collections & Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida.

Published by Rory Grennan

Rory Grennan is Director of Manuscripts Collections at Florida State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives.

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