George Dyson (science historian)

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George Dyson
George Dyson (2005).jpg
Dyson at The Long Now Foundation, San Francisco, 2005
Born (1953-03-26) March 26, 1953 (age 66)
OccupationScience historian, writer, boat designer, builder

George Dyson (born 26 March 1953) is an American non-fiction author and historian of technology whose publications broadly cover the evolution of technology in relation to the physical environment and the direction of society.[1] He has written on a wide range of topics, including the history of computing, the development of algorithms and intelligence, communications systems, space exploration, and the design of watercraft.

Early life[edit]

George Dyson is the son of the theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson and mathematician Verena Huber-Dyson, the brother of technology analyst Esther Dyson, and the grandson of the British composer Sir George Dyson. Dyson's early life is described in Kenneth Brower's book The Starship and the Canoe.[2] When he was sixteen he went to live in British Columbia to pursue his interest in kayaking.

From 1972 to 1975, he lived in a treehouse at a height of 30 metres that he built from salvaged materials on the shore of Burrard Inlet. Dyson became a Canadian citizen and spent 20 years in British Columbia, designing kayaks, researching historic voyages and native peoples, and exploring the Inside Passage. He was, during this period, estranged from his father for some time.[3]


Dyson's first book, Baidarka, published in 1986, described his research on the history of the Aleut kayak, its evolution in the hands of Russian fur traders, and his adaptation of its design to modern materials. He is the author of Project Orion: The Atomic Spaceship 1957–1965 and Darwin Among the Machines: The Evolution of Global Intelligence, in which he expands upon the premise of Samuel Butler's 1863 article of the same name and suggests that the Internet is a living, sentient being. His 2012 book Turing's Cathedral [4] has been described as "a creation myth of the digital universe." It was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times 2012 Book Prize in the science and technology category[5] and was chosen by University of California Berkeley's annual "On the Same Page" program for the academic year 2013–14.[6]

Dyson is the founder/owner of Dyson, Baidarka & Company, a designer of Aleut-style skin kayaks; he is credited with the revival of the baidarka style of kayak.

Dyson was a visiting lecturer and research associate at Western Washington University's Fairhaven College and was Director's Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, in 2002–03. He is a frequent contributor to the Edge Foundation.

Personal life[edit]

He lives and works in Bellingham, Washington.



  • Baidarka the Kayak, 1986, Alaska Northwest Books, ISBN 0-88240-315-X
  • Darwin Among the Machines, 1997, Basic Books (USA) & Allan Lane Science (UK), ISBN 0-7382-0030-1
  • Project Orion: The Atomic Spaceship 1957–1965, 2002, Allan Lane Science, ISBN 0-7139-9267-0
  • Turing's Cathedral, 2012, Pantheon, ISBN 0-375-42277-3


  1. ^ a b "Obituary of Verena Huber-Dyson". Moles Farewell Tributes. 12 March 2016. Archived from the original on 12 December 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  2. ^ Brower, K. (1978) The Starship and the Canoe, ISBN 978-0-03-039196-5. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  3. ^ Brower, Kenneth (27 October 2010). "The Danger of Cosmic Genius". Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (June 10, 2012). "The summer's books offer good reads for just about every taste". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  5. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (February 20, 2013). "Announcing the 2012 L.A. Times Book Prize finalists". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  6. ^ "On the Same Page with George Dyson: The Dawn of the Computer Age". University of California Berkeley. Archived from the original on January 13, 2014. Retrieved January 21, 2014.

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