Freeman J. Dyson was born in England and worked as a civilian scientist for the Royal Air Force in the Second World War. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1945 with a B.A. in mathematics.
Dyson came to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York as a graduate student in 1947 and worked with Hans Bethe and Richard Feynman. His most useful contribution to science was the unification of the three versions of quantum electrodynamics invented by Feynman Schwinger and Tomonaga. Cornell University made him a professor, despite the fact that he lacked a Ph.D. He subsequently worked on nuclear reactors, solid-state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology, looking for problems where elegant mathematics could be usefully applied.
He has written a number of books about science for the general public. Disturbing the Universe (1979) is a portrait gallery of people he has known during his career as a scientist. Weapons and Hope (1984) is a study of the ethical problems of war and peace. Infinite in All Directions (1988) is a philosophical meditation based on Dyson's Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology given at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Origins of Life (1986 2d ed. 1999) is a study of one of the major unsolved problems of science. The Sun, the Genome and the Internet (1999) discusses the question whether modern technology could be used to narrow the gap between rich and poor, rather than to widen it.
Dyson was a Fellow of the American Physical Society a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (FRS). In 2000 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.
After most of a lifetime spent as Professor of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Freeman Dyson retired. Professor Dyson died on February 28, 2020, in Princeton, New Jersey. He was 96 years old.