Favorite Quote: “The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion.”
Born in New York in 1918, Feynman grew up in the golden age of physics. Einstein just published his paper on general relativity in 1916 and this began a revolution, the world was starting to get a better understanding of the natural world. Richard fortunately had a great mentor, his father. Feynman’s father taught Richard what it is truly like to know something, to understand in great detail the functionality of something. Most importantly, Richard’s father Carl showed him how the world worked, and how interesting it is.
Thanks to his father, Richard began to have an interest in fixing radios and taught himself advanced algebra, trigonometry, differential and integral calculus all at the age of 15. As a senior in high school, young Feynman began to apply for universities. Applying for Columbia and MIT, Feynman was accepted only to MIT. Big woop right? At MIT, Feynman’s first consisted on trying to decide on an area to study. Beginning in mathematics, Feynman didn’t find that particularly inspiring. Afterwards, he tried engineering before finally falling into the event horizon of physics. Feynman did incredibly well as an undergraduate leaving his adviser suggesting on graduate study. His adviser, Manuel Vallanta, suggested to explore the world and to not return to MIT for graduate work. After much convincing, Feynman’s parents agreed on the terms leaving Feynman the decision to attend Princeton. At Princeton, Feynman met his doctoral adviser, physicist, John Wheeler. While at Princeton, group leader Robert Wilson encouraged Feynman to participate in the Manhattan Project. Richard reluctantly agreed concerned Nazi Germany was close to developing one as well.
Feynman moved to Los Alamos to begin work, alongside other great scientists. Richard was assigned to Han’s Beth’s theoretical division and together they formed the Beth-Feynman formula which calculated the yield of the fission bomb.
After the success of the project, Feynman decided to follow Beth and teach theoretical physics at Cornell University from 1945-1950. Desiring to live in a mild climate, Feynman declined many prestigious offers and instead accepted an offer to teach theoretical physics at California Institute of Technology.
At Cal Tech, Richard Feynman did incredible work including his completion of Quantum Electrodynamics. Completing the theory; Feynman, Schwinger (Doctoral Adviser during Feynman’s time at Princeton) and Tomonaga were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. Feynman used two distinct formulations, first being path integral formation and second, the formulation of his “Feynman Diagrams”. This strange theory of light and matter gave insight on the weird interactions of photons. (Particles of light)
Later in his life, Feynman got into the government business once more. This time, involving NASA and the Challenger Disaster of 1986. Feynman played an enormous role in the investigation, eventually figuring out the source of the problem. During a televised hearing, Feynman demonstrated that the O-Ring material that was used on the shuttle became less resilient in cold weather. Because of this, the cold launch in 1986 explains the causation of such catastrophe. In an appendix to the report of the incident, Feynman famously ending with this quote.
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
Krauss, L. M. (2012). Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science (Great Discoveries). WW Norton & Company.
Gleick, J. (2011). Genius: The life and science of Richard Feynman. Open Road.
Feynman, R. P. (1988). An outsider’s inside view of the Challenger inquiry.Physics Today, 41(2), 26-37.
Feyman, R. P. (1985). QED: The strange theory of light and matter. Universities Press.
Feynman, R. P., Hibbs, A. R., & Styer, D. F. (1965). Quantum mechanics and path integrals (Vol. 2). New York: McGraw-Hill.