By Browning Brooks
FSU Communications Group
The late Paul Dirac, the father of modern physics and Florida State University's most famous professor, will be memorialized at Westminster Abbey with a two-foot square stone that will touch the western edge of Sir Isaac Newton's grave.
Dirac was entitled to be buried at Westminster Abbey, according to FSU Dean of Faculties Steve Edwards, but he chose to be buried in Tallahassee's Roselawn Cemetery.
His widow, Margit, still lives in Tallahassee.
"We were deeply honored when he chose to be buried in Tallahassee rather than there," Edwards said. "The memorial in the abbey is in place of that."
The stone, of Burlington green slate from the Lake District of England, will be in the choir area of the abbey, a spot inaccessible but visible to the public.
Choirboys will be required to walk reverently around the Dirac stone and other nearby memorials to English physicists, such as Lord Kelvin and Michael Faraday.
"No other faculty member from FSU has been buried or memorialized in Westminster Abbey," said FSU Physicist Joe Lannutti, associate vice president for research. "The fact that his memorial will be in such a sacred part of the abbey sends a message. They think pretty highly of their scientists."
Though Dirac is being honored chiefly for his work at Cambridge University in England, Florida State claimed him for 14 years.
Born in 1902 in Bristol, England, Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac became known internationally at the age of 23 when he published his then-radical concept of quantum mechanics.
In 1927, he developed his relativistic wave equation explaining the interaction of electrons with electromagnetic fields, later known as the Dirac Equation, which brought him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1933.
The equation will be carved into his memorial.
In 1932, Cambridge appointed Dirac to a chair -- the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics -- that had first been held by Newton.
Dirac retired from Cambridge in 1969 and joined the FSU faculty in 1970. He remained on the FSU faculty until his death in 1984.
When Innovation Park was being developed as a research park near the Florida State University campus, Dirac took a great interest in it and agreed to have his name used for the main street. The new National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is located on Paul Dirac Drive.
In 1987, the new FSU science library on the main campus was named for Dirac, and a statue of him, paid for largely with contributions from alumni, was erected in front of the building in 1989.
The Nobel laureate greatly enjoyed his years at FSU and once told an interviewer from Encyclopaedia Britannica that the physics departments at Florida State and Cambridge were about equal in quality.