Freeman Dyson, Math Genius Turned Visionary Technologist, Dies at 96

He also continued with less fanciful work. He and a colleague, Andrew Lenard, won a bottle of Champagne for proving that the Pauli exclusion principle, which states that no two fermions (electrons are an example) can occupy the same state, accounted for the stability of matter. In 1965 Dr. Dyson received a Dannie Heineman Prize, often considered the next best thing in physics to a Nobel.

Little about the world, profound or mundane, escaped his curiosity. Among his work is a short paper deriving a mathematical equation — beautiful in his eyes — describing the seam of a baseball.

In the late 1970s Dr. Dyson turned full force to writing. Anyone with an interest in science and an appreciation for good prose is likely to have some Dysons on the shelf: “Disturbing the Universe,” “Weapons and Hope,” “Infinite in All Directions,” “The Sun, the Genome and the Internet.”

He also entered literature in a different way. He appeared in John McPhee’s book “The Curve of Binding Energy” (1974), a portrait of Ted Taylor, the nuclear scientist who led the Orion effort, and in Kenneth Brower’s “The Starship and the Canoe” (1978). In a memorable scene, Mr. Brower wrote of Dr. Dyson’s reunion with his son, George, who had turned his back on high technology to live in a treehouse in British Columbia and build a seafaring canoe. George Dyson later returned to civilization and became a historian of technology and an author. Dr. Dyson’s daughter Esther Dyson is a well-known Silicon Valley investor.

In addition to them and Dr. Dyson’s daughter Mia, he is survived by his second wife, Imme Dyson; their three other daughters, Dorothy Dyson, Emily Dyson Scott and Rebecca Dyson; a stepdaughter, Katarina Haefeli; and 16 grandchildren. Dr. Dyson’s marriage to the mathematician Verena Huber ended in divorce. She died in 2016.

Dr. Dyson’s mind burned until the end. In 2012, when he was 88, he collaborated with William H. Press on a paper about the prisoner’s dilemma, a mathematical concept important to understanding human behavior and the nature of evolution.

In his 90s, Dr. Dyson was still consulting for the government — on nuclear reactor design and the new gene-editing technology called CRISPR. In 2018, the year he turned 95, his book “Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters” was published.