Richard P Feynman

An Eclectic Physicist

"All the time you're saying to yourself, 'I could do that, but I won't' - which is just another way of saying that you can't." Richard P. Feynman.

Richard P. Feynman was an eclectic physicist born in 1918. Some of his achievements included working on the atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project and working on the modern understanding of quantum electrodynamics. Throughout his entire life he was a dabbler and sought understanding from all that he experienced.

Feynman was born to a middle class family in Manhattan, New York. One of the big influences of his life was that of his father, Melville. His father had predetermined his son would be a scientist. In this way, his father taught young Feynman to identify questions as opposed to knowing facts. Feynman's process of understanding was based on asking well-asked questions. Feynman's mother, Lucille, is attributed with developing one of the more interesting quirks Feynman, his humor. Armed with the ability and good humor to tackle formidable problems and situations, Feynman set out onto the world.

Feynman was exceptionally good at a variety of subjects of study especially Mathematics but eventually gravitated toward Physics. He did so because he felt that the best and most interesting questions came from nature and that he would learn the most as a Physicist. He graduated from college after four years at MIT as a Physics major and went on to Princeton University where he got his Ph.D.

Feynman worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II to create the atomic bomb as a part of the joint effort involving some of the best mathematicians, physicists, and chemists. He an inclination against doing so but in the end decided to take the job since the idea of the Nazi's being able to create their own nuclear bomb was not out the picture.

After working on the Manhattan Project and becoming a professor at Cornell University, Feynman did not feel as intellectually active as he once was. It was only after many university including the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton University sent him invitations offering him fairly lucrative professorships, he realized that despite himself not believing he was an intellectual giant, others did and them paying him for it would be their own problem. He promised himself to work with nothing but that which he could "play with."

This way of thinking helped him overcome his slump and enabled him to work on his method in quantum mechanics which had to do with calculating the probability of transition of quantum from one state to the next.

Feynman later made a breakthrough which involved the superfluidity of super cold helium. Essentially, the liquid displayed no frictional resistance whatsoever. He had applied Schrodinger's Equation to the phenomenon and determine it demonstrated quantum mechanical behaivor but on a macroscopic scale.

One of Feynman's other works included the study of "weak decay, " in which a free neutron will decay into a electron, a proton and an anti-neutrino. His and other physicists's work on this particular topic was important in changing modern understanding of nature.

To find out more about Feynman, both his work and adventures, read his autobiographical works: