Person: Feynman, Richard Phillips
Richard Feynman was a Nobel prize winner famous for his unusual life style and for his popular books and lectures on mathematics and physics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- It meant that a sadness fell over the household which must have greatly affected the young Richard.
- Richard, or Ritty as his friends called him, learnt a great deal of science from Encyclopaedia Britannica and taught himself elementary mathematics before he encountered it at school.
- At school Feynman approached mathematics in a highly unconventional way.
- His mathematics lecturers presented him with the view that one did mathematics for its own sake so Feynman changed courses, taking electrical engineering.
- It is interesting to think that had Feynman taken the mathematics course at Cambridge which Hoyle took around the same time, he would have found it exactly what he wanted.
- The physics course that Feynman took at MIT was not the standard one.
- There was no course on quantum mechanics, a topic that Feynman was very keen to study, so together with a fellow undergraduate, T A Welton, he began to read the available texts in the spring of 1936.
- By 1937 Feynman was reading Dirac's The principles of quantum mechanics and seeing how his highly original ideas fitted into Dirac's approach.
- Dirac became the scientist who Feynman most respected throughout his life.
- We mentioned above that Feynman went home for his vacations.
- Despite the personal recommendation that Harry Smyth at Princeton received from Slater, it was not obvious that Feynman would be accepted.
- After further letters from Slater, Feynman was accepted by Princeton.
- In retrospect, Feynman thought that Pauli must have seen difficulties at once, for after Feynman had spent a long time working on it, he too thought that it was not satisfactory.
- that the mathematical machinery emerging from the Wheeler-Feynman collaboration was beyond Wheeler's own ability).
- Feynman seemed to possess a frightening ease with the substance behind the equations, like Einstein at the same age, like the Soviet physicist Lev Landau - but few others.
- Feynman worked on the atomic bomb project at Princeton University (1941-42) and then at Los Alamos (1943-45).
- Feynman began work on the Manhattan project at Princeton developing a theory of how to separate Uranium 235 from Uranium 238, while his thesis supervisor Wheeler went to Chicago to work with Fermi on the first nuclear reactor.
- Wigner, in Wheeler's absence, advised Feynman to write up his thesis and after Wheeler and Wigner examined the work he received his doctorate in June 1942.
- Feynman had a difficult personal problem at this time.
- Shortly after his marriage Feynman went to the newly constructed Los Alamos site to work on the atomic bomb project.
- In 1950 Feynman accepted a position as professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology.
- He remained at Cal tech for the rest of his career, being appointed Richard Chace Tolman Professor of Theoretical Physics there in 1959.
- Feynman's main contribution was to quantum mechanics, following on from the work of his doctoral thesis.
- He introduced diagrams (now called Feynman diagrams) that are graphic analogues of the mathematical expressions needed to describe the behaviour of systems of interacting particles.
- Feynman's books include many outstanding ones which evolved out of lecture courses.
- For example Quantum Electrodynamics (1961) and The Theory of Fundamental Processes (1961), The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1963-65) (3 volumes), The Character of Physical Law (1965) and QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985).
- For Feynman the essence of scientific imagination was a powerful and almost painful rule.
- Feynman received many honours for his work.
Born 11 May 1918, New York City, USA. Died 15 February 1988, Los Angeles, California, USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin Usa, Prize Nobel, Physics
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive