UNSW - Science

Dirac Lecture Series


The Dirac Medal and Lecture

The Dirac Medal for the Advancement of Theoretical Physics is jointly awarded by the UNSW Science, and the Australian Institute of Physics on the occasion of the Dirac Public Lecture. The Lecture and the Medal commemorate the visit to the University in 1975 by Professor Paul Dirac, who gave five lectures whilst there.

The lectures were subsequently published as a book Directions of Physics. Professor Dirac donated the royalties from this book to the University for the establishment of the Dirac Lecture series. The prize includes a silver medal and honorarium. It was first awarded in 1979.

Past recipients include:

1979 Hannes Alfven

1981 John Clive Ward

1983 Nicolaas Bloembergen

1985 David Pines

1987 Robert Hofstadter

1988 Klaus von Klitzing

1989 Carlo Rubbia & Kenneth G. Wilson

1990 Norman F. Ramsey

1991 Herbert A. Hauptman

1992 Wolfgang Paul

1996 Edwin Salpeter

2002 Heinrich Hora

2003 Edward Shuryak

2004 Iosif Khriplovich

2006 Sir Roger Penrose

2008 Harald Fritzsch

2010 E. C. George Sudarshan

2011 Lord May of Oxford

2012 Brian Schmidt

2013 Sir Michael Pepper

2014 Serge Haroche


2012: Prof Brian P Schmidt


2011: Lord Robert M. May



2011 Lord Robert May

Beauty and Truth: their Intersection in Mathematics and Science

In the mists of prehistory, it seems clear that our ancestors sought to make sense of their world through myth and magic, memorably associated with evocative cave paintings, stone circles, and the like.The Greeks attempt to understand the motions of heavenly bodies were constrained by essentially aesthetic ideas about the perfection of circles. Did the advent of the experimental method overturn this conjunction of truth with beauty?  Dirac’s equation speaks eloquently and amazingly to a contrary view.


2012 Professor Brian Schmidt

The Accelerating Universe

Professor Schmidt described how in 1998 two teams of researchers traced back the expansion of the universe over billions of years and discovered that it was accelerating, a startling discovery that suggests that more than 70% of the cosmos is contained in a previously unknown form of matter, called Dark Energy. Professor Schmidt led the High-Redshift Supernova Search Team.

He gave details of the discovery and explained how astronomers have used observations to trace our universe’s history back more than 13 billion years, leading them to ponder the ultimate fate of the cosmos.


2013 Prof Sir Michael Pepper

Semiconductor Nanostructures  and Quantum Phenomena

Professor Pepper gave the Dirac Lecture on advanced semiconductor growth technology.

Sir Michael discusses how this technology, which was developed for the information technology industry, has allowed the creation of new types of structures for investigating the quantum aspects of electron transport.

Also how the dimensionality which is experienced by the electrons can be reduced from 3 to 2 to 1 and then to 0.