Freeman Dyson. Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize Foundation

The renowned physicist and polymath Freeman Dyson passed away near Princeton, New Jersey, on Feb. 28, at the age of 96.

Why it matters: Dyson was a dazzling scientist, but his true genius lay in his astonishing imagination, which reached for the farthest edges of the cosmos.

  • In 1949, Dyson tackled one of the trickiest problems in the field: how to describe the behavior of electrons and photons.
  • Dyson's insight, which came to him while riding a Greyhound bus through Nebraska, proved key to quantum electrodynamics, which the physicist Richard Feynman called the "jewel of physics."

Dyson never won a Nobel Prize for his work. He never even bothered to earn a Ph.D.

The bottom line: Few scientists can be said to have played as important a role in the making of our present than Dyson — and even fewer could so brilliantly envision the future.

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