The first Dirac House
By Hamish Johnston
Did he live here for 21 years?
The salmon-coloured house in the centre of the photo is 15 Monk Road, the birthplace of Paul Dirac.
This view of suburban Bristol is from our back window and would have been somewhat different in 1902 when Dirac was born. The houses had been built a year earlier and I’m guessing the gardens would have been devoid of trees and large shrubs.
Dirac lived in this house until he was about ten (according to his latest biographer Graham Farmelo or 21 — according to the historical plaque on the house (right).
I sometimes wonder what the current owners make of this plaque — are they worried that Dirac left some antimatter lurking under the floorboards?
In the April issue of Physics World the Bristol physicist Sir John Enderby reviews Graham Farmelo’s book The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius.
I asked Sir John about the discrepancy between Farmelo and the blue plaque and he isn’t sure which account is correct. He’s doing a little digging now, so stay tuned for an update.
Farmelo says that the Diracs moved to nearby Julius Rd (photo below) in 1912, so it is fairly certain that Paul spent his formative years in the same Bristol neighbourhood.
Indeed, Dirac went to nearby Bishop Road School , which also counts the actor Cary Grant as one of its former pupils. And if you continue along Bishop Rd, turn left at Gloucester Rd and then right on Ashley Down Rd you will reach the new Dirac Rd
One thing I can tell you about 15 Monk Road is that it has a tiny garden (much smaller than the garden in the foreground of the photo) so there wouldn’t have been much room for young Paul to play. However, the road would have been devoid of cars so he could have been tearing around out there — although after reading Sir John’s review I can’t imagine young Paul tearing around anywhere.
I have to admit a strange kinship to the Diracs. Like Paul’s father I am a foreigner (he was Swiss, I am Canadian); we are also bringing up three children in an identical house; and we are thinking of moving in the general direction of Julius Rd — the gardens are bigger over there!
Julius Rd in Bristol: did Paul Dirac move here in 1912?