Richard Feynman

Richard Phillips Feynman (1918 - 1988)

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Richard Phillips Feynman
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Profile last modified | Created 4 Dec 2014
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Categories: Notables.

Richard Feynman is Notable.
Richard Feynman won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965.

Contents

Biography

Richard Feynman was a theoretical physicist best known for his contributions to particle physics, quantum mechanics, Quantum Electrodynamics and superfluidity. He was a joint recipient of the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Personal Life

Richard Feynman was born on 11 May 1918 in New York City to Jewish parents Melville Feynman and Lucille (Phillips) Feynman.

Feynman showed an aptitude for engineering from an early age. An IQ test administered at Far Rockaway High School indicated that his IQ was 125.

Feynman was denied admission to Columbia University due to the quota on the number of Jews admitted. Instead he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he achieved a bachelor’s degree in 1939. He then attended Princeton University, where he received a PhD in 1942 with a thesis entitled “The Principle of Least Action in Quantum Mechanics”. His PhD advisor was John Archibald Wheeler.

After the completion of his PhD Feynman secured an assistant professor position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. However this appointment was spent on leave in Los Alamos where he joined the Manhattan Project and became involved in the development of the atomic bomb. Working in the theoretical division under Hans Bethe, he helped develop the Bethe-Feynman Formula for the fission yield from an atomic bomb. He was also responsible for coordinating the group of human computers who did most of the calculations for the theoretical division. After the war Feynman moved to Cornell University, where he taught from 1945 to 1950.

Feynman was married three times. His first wife, Arline Greenbaum, died of tuberculosis. His second marriage, to Mary Loiuse Bell, ended in divorce. His third marriage, to Gweneth Howarth, resulted in the birth of their son, Carl, in 1962. They also adopted a daughter, Michelle, in 1968.

Feynman died from cancer on 15 February 1998.

The Scientist

Feynman developed a system of diagrams used to understand the interactions between elementary particles. These "Feynman's Diagrams" are now used routinely in elementary particle physics.

During World War II Feynman contributed to the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb at Los Alamos.

Feynman worked on a bewildering array of problems, however, his largest contributions were perhaps to Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), where he devised a path integral formulation which ultimately lead to the award of a Nobel Prize. Feynman interpreted Landau’s theory of superfluidity in terms of quantum mechanics, showing that a superfluid is a macroscopic manifestation of quantum mechanical behaviour. He also made significant contributions to the fields of parallel computating, numerical methods, neural networks and cellular automata.

Feynman was a member of the Rogers Commission which investigated the space shuttle Challenger disaster. He demonstrated that the disaster was probably due to O-rings becoming less resilient at low temperatures. This explanation was ultimately accepted by the commission.

The Teacher

Feynman was a legendary teacher and published his undergraduate lectures as the three-volume The Feynman Lectures on Physics.

Quotes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that."

Sources

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