Essay on Physics, Love, and Richard Feynman

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Physics, Love, and Richard Feynman


Physics. Love. These two words sum up the entities that Richard Feynman held most important throughout his entire life. An extraordinary individual, Feynman was able to combine an incredible mind with an incredible personality to achieve ends bordering on the magical. After Feynman's death in 1988, physicist Hans Bethe, paraphrasing the mathematician Mark Kac, spoke of two kinds of geniuses. He explained that the ordinary kind does great things but lets other scientists feel that they could do the same if only they worked hard enough. The other kind performs magic. Bethe said, "A magician does things that nobody else could ever do and that seem completely unexpected...and that's Feynman" (Lubkin 1989, p. 23).

The calculating, Nobel prize-winning scientist contributed five decades of field-defining work to the domain of physics; the bongo-playing, safe-cracking lover contributed seven decades of zest-filled life to the domain of humanity. The following is an in-depth look at this man's life and work, investigated in an attempt to give insight into his unique creative genius. To see how well Feynman's defining characteristics fit with those of other creative geniuses, another investigation follows. Howard Gardner's model of creativity, as described in his Creating Minds (1993), is used as the backdrop for this analysis. Through these investigations, the physicist and non-physicist alike will gain a sense of the extraordinary mind that this "half genius, half buffoon" exercised daily--for his love of physics, and for his love of life (Dyson 1989, p. 34).


"It is impossible to understand Feynman's science properly without understanding what kind of a person he was, ...

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...hat do you care what other people think?" New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Gardner, H. (1993). Creating minds. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Gell-Mann, M. (1989). Dick Feynman--the guy in the office down the hall. Physics Today: 42(2),50-54.

Gribbin, J., &;Gribbin, M. (1997). Richard Feynman. New York, NY: Dutton.

Lubkin, G.B. (1989). Special issue: Richard Feynman. Physics Today: 42(2), 23.

Mehra, J. (1994). The beat of a different drum: the life and science of Richard Feynman. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.

The science of creativity. (1996, October). Discover, 17, 102.

Wheeler, J. A. (1989). The young Feynman. Physics Today: 42(2), 24-28.

Richard Feynman Information Sources Online:

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