# Search - List of Books by Richard Feynman

**Richard Phillips Feynman** (, May 11, 1918 — February 15, 1988) was an American physicist known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics (he proposed the parton model). For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman, jointly with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. He developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical expressions governing the behavior of subatomic particles, which later became known as Feynman diagrams. During his lifetime, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world.

He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb and was a member of the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. In addition to his work in theoretical physics, Feynman has been credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing, and introducing the concept of nanotechnology. He held the Richard Chace Tolman professorship in theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology.

Feynman was a keen popularizer of physics through both books and lectures, notably a 1959 talk on top-down nanotechnology called *There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom* and *The Feynman Lectures on Physics*. Feynman also became known through his semi-autobiographical books (*Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!* and *What Do You Care What Other People Think?*) and books written about him, such as *Tuva or Bust!*

Feynman also had a deep interest in biology, and was a friend of the geneticist and microbiologist Esther Lederberg, who developed replica plating and discovered bacteriophage lambda. They had several mutual physicist friends who, after beginning their careers in nuclear research, moved for moral reasons into genetics, among them Leó Szilárd, Guido Pontecorvo, and Aaron Novick.

Richard Phillips Feynman was born on May 11, 1918, in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York. His family originated from Russia and Poland; both of his parents were Jewish, but they were not devout. In fact, by his early youth, Feynman described himself as an "avowed atheist". Feynman (in common with the famous physicists Edward Teller and Albert Einstein) was a late talker; by his third birthday he had yet to utter a single word. The young Feynman was heavily influenced by his father, Melville, who encouraged him to ask questions to challenge orthodox thinking. From his mother, Lucille, he gained the sense of humor that he had throughout his life. As a child, he delighted in repairing radios and had a talent for engineering. His sister Joan also became a professional physicist.

### Education

In high school, his IQ was determined to be 125 (on an unspecified test, making this statement dubious) : high, but "merely respectable" according to biographer Gleick. Feynman later scoffed at psychometric testing. By 15, he had learned differential and integral calculus. Before entering college, he was experimenting with and re-creating mathematical topics, such as the half-derivative, utilizing his own notation. In high school, he was developing the mathematical intuition behind his Taylor series of mathematical operators.

His habit of direct characterization sometimes rattled more conventional thinkers; for example, one of his questions when learning feline anatomy was "Do you have a map of the cat?" (referring to an anatomical chart).

Feynman attended Far Rockaway High School, a school that also produced fellow laureates Burton Richter and Baruch Samuel Blumberg. A member of the Arista Honor Society, in his last year in high school, Feynman won the New York University Math Championship; the large difference between his score and those of his closest competitors shocked the judges.

He applied to Columbia University, but was not accepted, because of the "Jewish quota" (a discriminatory practice of limiting the number of places available to students of Jewish background). Instead he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a bachelor's degree in 1939, and in the same year was named a Putnam Fellow. While there, Feynman took every physics course offered, including a graduate course on theoretical physics while only in his second year.

He obtained a perfect score on the graduate school entrance exams to Princeton University in mathematics and physics ... an unprecedented feat ... but did rather poorly on the history and English portions. Attendees at Feynman's first seminar included Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, and John von Neumann. He received a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1942; his thesis advisor was John Archibald Wheeler. Feynman's thesis applied the principle of stationary action to problems of quantum mechanics, laying the groundwork for the "path integral" approach and Feynman diagrams, and was entitled "The Principle of Least Action in Quantum Mechanics".

### The Manhattan Project

At Princeton, the physicist Robert R. Wilson encouraged Feynman to participate in the Manhattan Project...the wartime U.S. Army project at Los Alamos developing the atomic bomb. Feynman said he was persuaded to join this effort to build it before Nazi Germany developed their own bomb.

He was assigned to Hans Bethe's theoretical division, and impressed Bethe enough to be made a group leader. He and Bethe developed the Bethe-Feynman formula for calculating the yield of a fission bomb, which built upon previous work by Robert Serber.

He immersed himself in work on the project, and was present at the Trinity bomb test. Feynman claimed to be the only person to see the explosion without the very dark glasses or welder's lenses provided, reasoning that it was safe to look through a truck windshield, as it would screen out the harmful ultraviolet radiation.

As a junior physicist, he was not central to the project. The greater part of his work was administering the computation group of human computers in the Theoretical division (one of his students there, John G. Kemeny, later went on to co-write the computer language BASIC). Later, with Nicholas Metropolis, he assisted in establishing the system for using IBM punched cards for computation. Feynman succeeded in solving one of the equations for the project that were posted on the blackboards. However, they did not "do the physics right" and Feynman's solution was not used.

Feynman's other work at Los Alamos included calculating neutron equations for the Los Alamos "Water Boiler", a small nuclear reactor, to measure how close an assembly of fissile material was to criticality. On completing this work he was transferred to the Oak Ridge facility, where he aided engineers in devising safety procedures for material storage so that criticality accidents (for example, due to sub-critical amounts of fissile material inadvertently stored in proximity on opposite sides of a wall) could be avoided. He also did theoretical work and calculations on the proposed uranium-hydride bomb, which later proved not to be feasible.

Feynman was sought out by physicist Niels Bohr for one-on-one discussions. He later discovered the reason: most physicists were too in awe of Bohr to argue with him. Feynman had no such inhibitions, vigorously pointing out anything he considered to be flawed in Bohr's thinking. Feynman said he felt as much respect for Bohr as anyone else, but once anyone got him talking about physics, he would become so focused he forgot about social niceties.

Due to the top secret nature of the work, Los Alamos was isolated. In Feynman's own words, "There wasn't anything to *do* there". Bored, he indulged his curiosity by learning to pick the combination locks on cabinets and desks used to secure papers. Feynman played many jokes on colleagues. In one case he found the combination to a locked filing cabinet by trying the numbers a physicist would use (it proved to be 27-18-28 after the base of natural logarithms, *e* = 2.71828...), and found that the three filing cabinets where a colleague kept a set of atomic bomb research notes all had the same combination. He left a series of notes as a prank, which initially spooked his colleague, Frederic de Hoffman, into thinking a spy or saboteur had gained access to atomic bomb secrets. On several occasions, Feynman drove to Albuquerque to see his ailing wife in a car borrowed from Klaus Fuchs, who was later discovered to be a real spy for the Soviets, transporting nuclear secrets in his car to Santa Fe.
**Total Books:** 28