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Paul A.M. Dirac Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 1989-009

Scope and Contents

The Paul A. M. Dirac Collection includes material documenting his personal life and career as a student, premiere theoretical physicist, Nobel Prize winner, contributor to UK military research during World War II, noted lecturer and world traveler, holder of the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics chair at Cambridge University from 1932 until 1969, and Research Professor at Florida State University from 1972 until his death in 1984. The collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts of scientific papers and lectures, manuscript calculations, books, photographs, sound recordings, framed certificates, and realia.

Online Copies Available

Select materials from the Paul A.M. Dirac Papers are available online in the Paul A.M. Dirac Collection, Florida State University Digital Library.


  • created: 1788-1999


Conditions Governing Access

Family medical records relating to living persons are closed to researchers in consideration of their privacy.

All other materials in the Paul A. M. Dirac Collection are available to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Copyrights held by Margit Dirac were transferred to Florida State University by deeds of gift in 1986, 1989, 1992, and 1996, including those held by Paul A.M. Dirac at the time of his death.

Copyright in unpublished works by Paul Dirac will expire on January 1, 2055.

Biographical or Historical Information

1902, Aug. 8: Born in Bristol, England to Charles Adrein Ladislas Dirac, a Swiss-born French teacher, and Florence Hannah Holten, a library clerk.

1908-1918: Attended the Bishop Road elementary school and the Merchant Venturers' Technical College (a secondary school) where his father taught. As an elderly man, he recalled that he excelled in mathematics, chemistry, and physics, but was disadvantaged by his age and size in sports activities.

1918-1923: He studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Bristol, with first class honors and stayed on to study mathematics, completing his examinations with first class honors after two additional years.

1923-1926: He was admitted to St. John's College at Cambridge, studying with Ralph A. Fowler. During this time he published several technical papers and in 1926 he was awarded his Ph.D. with a thesis "Quantum Mechanics" and traveled to other European centers where modern physics was being investigated.

1927-1933: He progressed rapidly in his research positions being successively elected a Fellow at St. John's College of Cambridge University, 1927; Praelector in Mathematical Physics, 1929; Fellow of the Royal Society, 1930; Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, 1932; Nobel Prize for Physics in 1933 along with Erwin Schroedinger.

1930: He published the first edition of The Principles of Quantum Mechanics.

1933-1969: He continued his research activity and traveled widely, teaching and lecturing frequently in Europe, Asia, and North America, interrupted only during the time he was involved in War-related work, often taking short-term lecturing positions at major universities until his retirement from Cambridge in 1969. In 1937, he married Margit ("Manci") Wigner, the sister of Eugene P. Wigner a Hungarian colleague at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study. He adopted her two children, Judith and Gabriel. They had two daughters, Mary Elizabeth and Florence Monica.

1972-1984: He accepted an appointment at Florida State University and moved to Tallahassee where he continued his active research and travel until near the end of his life on October 20, 1984. He is buried in Tallahassee.


65 Linear Feet (110 boxes) : total collection extent

Language of Materials

Multiple languages


The Paul A. M. Dirac Papers consists of the personal and family papers, photographs, manuscripts, galley proofs, and published papers, scientific calculations, lecture notes, and office files of Dr. Paul A. M. Dirac, winner of the Nobel Prize (Physics, 1933). Materials relating to his professorships at St. John's College at Cambridge University where he held the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics chair from his election in 1932 until his retirement in 1969 and then as Professor of Physics at Florida State University from 1972 until his death in 1984, comprise the bulk of the Collection. A small group of audio recordings, certificates, realia, and selected published items transferred from his office at the time of his death are also included.

Arrangement Note

Collection was re-boxed in 2014. Items that are located in a new box and/or folder have their former location noted as part of their folder description.

Physical Location

Special Collections Research Center

Method of Acquisition

The materials in the Paul A.M. Dirac papers were donated by Mrs. Dirac over a period of years from 1984 to 1997.

Accruals and Additions

Additional addresses, artlcles, articles, and honorary items were received from Monica Dirac (December 3, 2012) that were originally from the Dirac house in Tallahassee.  Marshall Knight gave four boxes of Mary Dirac's legal and financial materials on March 15, 2013. Further additions came from Monica Dirac in May 2013, and in February 2014.

Related Materials

Paul Dirac Photographs, MSS 2021-003, Special Collections & Archives, Florida State University Libraries, Tallahassee, Florida.

Billie B. Oakes (2000). The Personal Papers of Paul A.M. Dirac: Their History and Preservation at the Florida State University (Doctoral thesis). Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL.

Related Publications

Clark, K., & Harrington, E. (2015). Deciphering the doodlings of the “shoebox collection” of the Paul A. M. Dirac papers. In E. Barbin, U. T. Jankvist, & T. H. Kjeldsen (Eds.), Seventh European Summer University on the History and Epistemology in Mathematics Education (ESU-7) (pp. 735-744).

Farmelo, Graham. (2009). The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius. London: Faber and Faber.

Copenhagen, Denmark: Danish School of Education, Aarhus University.

Université Libre de Bruxelles. The Solvay Science Project.

Processing Information

To ensure the preservation of the materials and their accessibility to researchers, nonprint materials (photographs, negatives, memorabilia, and recordings) have been removed from their original locations among the papers and collected into appropriate locations. Manuscripts, galley proofs, and published materials by P. A. M. Dirac similarly have been brought together. His office collections of reprints and books have been maintained as transferred.

Very little of the deposited material has been removed, mainly envelopes not needed to establish dates or the identity of correspondents. Likewise journals, multiple copies of reprints, and other published materials, easily found in libraries' holdings, have been removed unless there was evidence of Dirac's use. All other items received have been retained. There is no evidence that it was Dirac's practice to keep a file of outgoing correspondence. Except for occasional notes on incoming letters to guide his assistants in replying, the content of his outgoing letters must be inferred from his actions and from subsequent incoming letters or by examining the correspondence of the recipients in other repositories.

Regrettably, much of the original order of the collection was disrupted prior to deposit as a consequence of arriving at various times from Dirac's office, home, and elsewhere and the reintegration of a collection materials temporarily on loan to the Churchill College Archives. A trans-Atlantic relocation of the Dirac possessions from Cambridge to Tallahassee in 1972 undoubtedly had a similar effect. However, during the processing of this collection, the original order of the files was preserved as closely as possible. The general arrangement consists of three major segments: the first consisting of family papers and photographs, regardless of date, and materials relating to this educational activities through his being awarded his doctorate at Cambridge in 1926. The second, and largest, segment is comprised of his "professional" papers dealing with his scientific work, lecturing, and teaching. Materials dealing with his extensive travel, membership in professional associations, and awards are also in this section. The third component contains realia, honorary certificates, and similar items.

Processed by: Charles Wm. Conaway, Joseph R. McElrath, Jr., Billie B. Oakes, and Burton H. Altman.

Paul A.M. Dirac Papers
Elizabeth Kelly & Burt Altman
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US