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Dyson, Freeman John

lamb photons shift quantum

(1923– ) British–US theoretical physicist: unified the independent versions of quantum electrodynamics.

Dyson, the son of a distinguished English musician, graduated from Cambridge and spent the Second World War at the headquarters of Bomber Command. In 1947 he did research at Cornell and joined the staff at Princeton in 1953.

Shortly after the war several people began to apply quantum mechanics to systems in which particles (particularly electrons) interact with electromagnetic radiation (photons). In 1946 Willis Lamb (1913– ) observed a shift (the Lamb shift) in the lowest energy levels of the hydrogen atom, away from the previously predicted levels rapidly developed independent theories correctly describing how electrons behave when interacting with photons, and accounted for the Lamb shift. Dyson then showed how the formulations related to each other and produced a single general theory of quantum electrodynamics (‘QED’, dealing with the interactions of subatomic particles with photons).

Subsequently Dyson was involved in many areas of physics, in cosmology and even speculations on space travel.

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