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Dirac biographer shortlisted for book prize

The cover of Graham Farmelo’s biography of Paul Dirac

By Matin Durrani

“Moving, funny, sad and intensely readable, this is a fascinating insight into the psychology of genius.”

No, not a description of this blog entry, but what the judges of the Costa Book Awards had to say about Graham Farmelo’s biography of Paul Dirac, published earlier this year.

The judges have shortlisted his book, entitled The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Quantum Genius, for the 2009 Costa Biography Award.

As physicists, we’re biased, of course, and so are hoping Graham beats off the other contenders.

(For the record, they are a description by the late playwright Simon Gray of his battle with cancer, a biography by the author William Fiennes of his brother Richard, and a biography of Lucie de la Tour du Pin. No I’ve not heard of her either, but she lived in France at the turn of the 19th century and was, apparently, “the Pepys of her generation”.)

Graham’s shortlisting — announced last night on the BBC Radio 4 show Front Row — is a great opportunity for me to give you a final reminder that he is presenting the inaugural webinar in the online lecture series tomorrow, Thursday 26 November 2009, at 4p.m. UK time. Graham will be describing Dirac’s life story and outlining his key scientific contributions.

(Profuse apologies again to anyone in the US for the clash with Thanksgiving, but we’re hoping you can log on while popping the turkey in the oven.)

The webinar is free and you can register for the event via this link

Graham was pretty chuffed about the shortlisting. “I’m thrilled,” he e-mailed me today. “I always wanted the book to be read not only by physicists but by people who enjoy biographies. The wonderful thing about prizes like this is that they bring books to new audiences.”

Let’s hope he wins.

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