In 2006, the renowned physicist Freeman Dyson wrote a letter to his colleague Gerald Gabrielse regarding an advance in precision about measuring the magnetic moment of an electron. An excerpt of his letter is quoted in a news report available on the CERN website.

Dear Gerald...As one of the inventors [of QED], I remember that we thought of QED in 1949 as a temporary and jerry-built structure, with mathematical inconsistencies and renormalized infinities swept under the rug. We did not expect it to last more than 10 years before some more solidly built theory would replace it...Now, 57 years have gone by and that ramshackle structure still stands...It is amazing that you can measure her dance to one part per trillion and find her still following our beat. With congratulations and good wishes for more such beautiful experiments, yours ever, Freeman Dyson.

Does anyone happen to know where the full letter is located? I'm trying to study the history behind the development of QED, and to my understanding, Dyson actually left the field after he realized that his series connecting the theories of Feynmann, Schwinger, and Tomonaga diverged under certain circumstances. From the excerpt, it appears that Dyson is still deeply critical of the theoretical footing of the theory despite praising its agreement with experimental results, though I would feel confident in wagering this opinion if the full letter was available.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I assume the news report where you found the quote is this article from the CERN Courier magazine (or the PDF version of the article)? Gabrielse (the recipient of Dyson's letter) is one of the authors of that article, so it might be the case that the letter has never been published. You could email Gabrielse (address on the NWU site) and ask. $\endgroup$
    – Senex
    Jan 10 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ Do you think that it would be proper for me to do so? I have an email associated with a college, would that be appropriate to use when sending him the letter? $\endgroup$
    – Talmsmen
    Jan 11 at 4:33
  • $\begingroup$ Yes -- it is normal for academics to get emails asking for copies of papers etc. Use your college email and send Gabrielse a short email asking if the full letter has been published anywhere and, if not, whether he would be willing to let you have a copy of it, or at least of the parts of the letter relating to Dyson's views on QED. Also, say that you understand if he thinks that he cannot share any more of a private letter without permission. (It is possible that he asked Dyson for permission to use of the quotation.) $\endgroup$
    – Senex
    Jan 11 at 8:33


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.