Penrose, Roger

Oral history interview with Roger Penrose, 1989 January 24.

Roger Penrose discusses his family background; influence of older brother Oliver; career of father; early interest in mathematics, particularly geometry; building 3-d models out of cardboard; influence of Fred Hoyle's radio talks in the late 1940s; questioning of some of the statements by Hoyle in his radio talks; meeting Dennis Sciama; early sympathy toward the steady state model; importance of aesthetics in scientific theories; early preference for closed universes; history of Penrose's ideas on the application of the second law of thermodynamics to cosmology; preference for a very mathematical structure of the origin of the universe; work with Hodge at Cambridge in pure mathematics; influence of Sciama in turning to physics and cosmology; history of work on the singularity theorems; influence of a lecture by David Finkelstein; early work on spinors; work on first singularity theorem for black holes; Penrose's preference for working on problems for which he has a different angle from everyone else; belief in a quantum era in the early universe; influence of Sciama in abandoning the steady state model; work with Stephen Hawking on the singularity theorems for cosmology; view of twistor theory; beauty of complex analytic structure; inseparability of mathematics and physics; importance of complex numbers; importance of visual images; reaction to the horizon problem; pre-eminence of the entropy problem; inadequacy of the inflationary universe model to solve the entropy problem; reasons why the inflationary universe model has been so influential; dislike for the inflationary universe model; particle physicists' lack of appreciation of the problems of general relativity; attitude toward the flatness problem; importance of quantum gravity in solving all these problems; the anthropic principle; reaction to de Lapparent, Geller, and Huchra's work on large-scale inhomogeneities; outstanding problems in cosmology: physics in the very early universe, galaxy formation, missing mass, nature of dark matter; ideal design for the universe and the unity of mathematics and physics; question of whether the universe has a purpose.

(1931- ): Ph.D. in mathematics, Cambridge University (1955); reader and later professor of applied mathetmatics at Birbeck College, London England; was Rouse-Ball chair of mathetmatics at Oxford University. Research interests have included algebraic geometry, differential topology, plane tilings and quasicrystals, the theory of twistors, classical general relativity, adn singularity theorems in general relativity.

Finkelstein, David Ritz, 1929-

Geller, Margaret J.

Hawking, Stephen, 1942-

Hodge, W. V. D. (William Vallance Douglas), 1903-

Hoyle, Fred, 1915-2001

Huchra, John P.

Penrose, Roger

Sciama, D. W. (Dennis William), 1926-

University of Cambridge

Anthropic principle.

Black holes (Astronomy)

Cosmology

Dark matter (Astronomy)

Galaxies -- Formation

Inflationary universe.

Large scale structure (Astronomy)

Quantum gravity.

Steady state cosmology.

Thermodynamics.

Twistor theory.

Interviews. aat

Oral histories. aat

Transcripts. aat

Lightman, Alan P., 1948-, interviewer.

AIP-ICOS

American Institute of Physics. Niels Bohr Library & Archives. One Physics Ellipse, College Park, MD 20740, USA