Freeman Dyson Refused to Let Go of His Optimism About the World

By Kristen R. Ghodsee, Member (2006–07) in the School of Social Science:

"For Dyson, the mysteries of human behavior were just as deep and enduring as the mysteries of the universe. In the sheer breadth of his interests, Dyson embodied the ideal of the Renaissance man, widely knowledgeable across multiple fields of inquiry. In addition to his groundbreaking work in astrophysics and quantum mechanics, Dyson reveled in the humanities and social sciences, exploring big questions not everyone has the courage to ask.

He had some wild ideas about life beyond our planet. He theorized about extraterrestrials powering their civilizations by building spheres around their suns as well as genetically engineered trees that could grow on comets. But Dyson had social dreams, too, dreams about how to make our world more peaceful, cooperative, and kind. A profound admirer of Mohandas Gandhi, he cared as much about poetry and politics as he did about planets. Over more than six decades at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, his incisive mind inspired generations of scholars across many disciplines, including me."

Read more at Jacobin.