Chandra’s Role in 20th Century Science

author: Freeman J. Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Amsterdam
introducer: James W. Cronin, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago
published: April 8, 2011,   recorded: October 2010,   views: 4116

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In 1946 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar gave a talk at the University of Chicago entitled “The Scientist.” He was then 35 years old, less than halfway through his life and less than a third of the way through his career as a scientist, but already he was reflecting deeply on the meaning and purpose of his work. His talk was one of a series of public lectures organized by Robert Hutchins, then the chancellor of the university. The list of speakers is impressive, and included Frank Lloyd Wright, Arnold Schoenberg, and Marc Chagall. That list proves two things. It shows that Hutchins was an impresario with remarkable powers of persuasion, and that he already recognized Chandra as a world-class artist whose medium happened to be theories of the universe rather than music or paint. I say “Chandra” because that is the name his friends used for him when he was alive.

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