Richard Feynman

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Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988; surname pronounced FINE-man; /ˈfaɪnmən/) was an American physicist known for his scientific acumen, humor, and charismatic charm. His accomplishments in physics included expanding the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, and particle theory. His work on quantum electrodynamics made him a joint recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, together with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga; he developed a way to understand the behavior of subatomic particles using pictorial tools that later became known as Feynman diagrams.

Along with several of the other leading physicists of his era, he assisted in the development of the atomic bomb in the Manhattan Project and was a member of the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In addition to his work in theoretical physics, Feynman is credited with the concept and early exploration of quantum computing, and publicly envisioning nanotechnology, creation of devices at the molecular scale. He held the Richard Chace Tolman professorship in theoretical physics at Caltech.

Feynman was a keen and influential popularizer of physics in both his books and lectures, notably a seminal 1959 talk on top-down nanotechnology called There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom and The Feynman Lectures on Physics, a three-volume set which has become a classic text. Known for his insatiable curiosity, wit, brilliant mind and playful temperament,[1] he is equally famous for his many adventures, detailed in his books Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, What Do You Care What Other People Think? and Tuva or Bust!. As well as being an inspirational lecturer, bongo player, notorious practical joker, and decipherer of Maya hieroglyphs, Richard Feynman was regarded as an eccentric and a free spirit. He liked to pursue multiple seemingly independent paths, such as biology, art, percussion, and lock picking. Freeman Dyson once wrote that Feynman was "half-genius, half-buffoon", but later revised this to "all-genius, all-buffoon".

The Manhattan Project

Feynman's brilliance as a physicist landed him smack in Los Alamos in 1942, just as he finished his Ph D in Physics from Princeton. His personality was not one that was compatible with submission to military authority and this first employment by the armed forces was also his last. "Feynman was known for his irreverent nature and general disregard for official rules and regulations. During his years with the Manhattan Project, he learned how to break into filing cabinets where classified information was stored. Although he never took any of the secret documents, he left behind notes and evidence that made it clear to those responsible for the files that someone had managed to bypass their security efforts." [1]


  1. (2002) “Richard P. Feynman”, Computer Sciences. 4 vols.. Macmillan Reference USA. . Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2007.Document Number: K2642210025 (password required)