Let all the blood run to your head

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | The Sunday Guardian | June 21, 2015

Professor Paul Dirac died in Florida, US, in October 1984 at the age of 84. Recipient of the Nobel Prize and many other awards, he was considered — after Newton and Einstein — the greatest scientist of modern times. He is known mainly for his development of quantum mechanical theory — in effect the physics of the smallest part of the atom — and his effective prediction of anti-matter before it had been experimentally discovered. His "anti-matter" and "anti-universe" became the leading physical ideas for explaining the character and contents of the contemporary universe, its origin and history. J.G. Crowther's obituary to Dirac in Guardian (4 November 1984) was fittingly given the headline "Prophet of the anti-universe".

Dirac's discovery of the first anti-particle, known as a positron, revolutionised the world of nuclear physics. Students were naturally interested to know how he arrived at this world-shaking discovery. His answer often proved somewhat disconcerting. "When people asked him how he got his startling ideas about the nature of sub-atomic matter, Crowther writes, "He would patiently explain that he did so by lying on his study floor with his feet up so that the blood ran to his head."

Dirac's answer might appear tongue-in-cheek, but in fact what he said was quite true. Great intellectual feats can only be accomplished by letting all the blood of one's body run to one's head — by channelling all one's energy into the intellectual pursuit one had undertaken.

Few people actually do this. They rather tend to diversify their efforts. Their failure to concentrate on a single goal renders all their efforts incomplete and ineffective. Every worthwhile task demands all the strength that an individual can muster. The only way to be successful in one's work is to give it all one has.