Julian Schwinger was born in Manhattan, New York City, on February 12, 1918, to rather well-off middle-class parents. His father was a well-known designer of women’s clothes. He had a brother Harold seven years older than himself, whom Julian idolized as child. Harold claimed that he taught Julian physics until he was 13. Although Julian was recognized as intelligent in school, everyone thought Harold was the bright one. (Harold in fact eventually became a well-known lawyer, and his mother always considered him as the successful son, even after Julian received the Nobel Prize.)But the best part of Schwinger was perhaps his ethics. He chose not to go to Los Alamos, where all his colleagues had gathered:
-- K.A. Milton, "Julian Schwinger," http://arXiv.org/abs/physics/0606153
There seem to be at least three reasons why Schwinger stayed at the Radiation Laboratory throughout the war.Schwinger was the last in the line of the great quantum mechanists--Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli.... What Feynman was to intuition, Schwinger was to calculation. To me, Schwinger's most impressive result was for the first-order calculation for the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron, a formula remarkable for its simplicity given the complicated formalism from which it sprang:
• The reason he most often cited later in life was one of moral repugnance. When he realized the destructive power of what was being constructed at Los Alamos, he wanted no part of it. In contrast, the radiation lab was developing a primarily defensive technology, radar, which had already saved Britain....
g = 2 + alpha/piEver since, all physics graduate students have repeated his calculation, though in the context of a one-loop Feynman diagram, not Schwinger's Greens functions.
A few years ago I wrote a biographical article about Schwinger for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and while I got paid for it I don't know if it was ever published.