Freeman Dyson's new collection of pieces from "The New York Review of Books" investigates and celebrates what he calls openness to unconventional ideas in science. His subjects range from the seventeenth-century scientific revolution, to the scientific inquiries of the Romantic generation, to important recent works by Daniel Kahneman and Malcolm Gladwell. He discusses twentieth-century giants of physics such as Richard Feynman, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Paul Dirac, many of whom he knew personally, and explores some of today's most pressing scientific issues, from global warming, to the future of biotechnology, to the flood of information in the digital age. In these essays, Dyson, whom "The New York Times Book Review" called "one of science's most eloquent interpreters," mixes reminiscences, lucid explanations of scientific concepts, and an engagingly imaginative approach to the triumphs, blunders, mysteries, and dreams of scientific inquiry into the natural world.
Freeman Dyson has spent most of his life as a professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, taking time off to advise the US government and write books for the general public. He was born in England and worked as a civilian scientist for the Royal Air Force during World War II. He came to Cornell University as a graduate student in 1947 and worked with Hans Bethe and Richard Feynman, producing a user-friendly way to calculate the behavior of atoms and radiation. He also worked on nuclear reactors, solid-state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics, and biology, looking for problems where elegant mathematics could be usefully applied. Dyson's books include "Disturbing the Universe "(1979), "Weapons and Hope" (1984), "Infinite in All Directions" (1988), "Origins of Life" (1986, second edition 1999), "The Sun, the Genome and the Internet"(1999), "A Many-Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe" (2010), and "The Scientist as Rebel "(2006, published by New York Review Books). He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 2000 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.