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Richard Feynman (1918-1988)

Richard Feynman was a multi-faceted individual who played a very significant role in the field of science. He was born in New York on May 11th 1918. This popular American physicist was a son of […]

Richard Feynman was a multi-faceted individual who played a very significant role in the field of science. He was born in New York on May 11th 1918. This popular American physicist was a son of Melville Arthur Feynman and Lucille who was a home maker. Both of his parents were Ashkenazi Jewish who originated from Poland and Russia. His parents did not subscribe to any religious doctrine which made Feynman to describe himself as an atheist at his youthful age. Although Feynman was a late talker, his father influenced him to always challenge the usual orthodox thinking. He inherited a sense of humour from his mother that he depicted in his entire life.

Talent and education

Richard Feynman was a talented engineer. During his childhood, he established an experimental lab at home. He was always interested in radio repair. He attended the Far Rockaway High School. He had an IQ of 125 while in high school. He learned advanced algebra, trigonometry, analytic geometry, integral and differential calculus as well as infinite series in 1933 at the age of 15. He had already started re-creating and experimenting mathematical topics. He used personal notation to experiment and re-create topics such as the half-derivative. He used Taylor series to develop mathematical intuition while in high school.

After leaving high school, he joined Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He studied for a bachelor’s degree that entailed a wide range of physics courses. He graduated in theoretical physics after two years of study. Later on, he joined Princeton University where he received a Ph. D in 1942. He applied the Stationary action principle in his thesis in solving quantum mechanics’ problems. Today, Richard Feynman is among the most popular theoretical physicists in America. He is known for the significant role that he played in the formulation of path integral in quantum mechanics.

His contribution

Richard Feynman contributed greatly in development of quantum electrodynamics theory. He also participated towards super fluidity physics in super cooled helium liquid and particle physics. In 1965, together with Sin-Itiro Tomanaga and Julian Schwinger he received the Physics’ Nobel Prize for his contribution in this field. He developed a scheme for pictorial representation that is widely used in mathematical expressions that govern subatomic particles’ behaviour. Later, the scheme came to be referred to as the Feynman diagrams.

Generally, Feynman has become one of the most popular scientists not only in America but all over the world. He was ranked among ten greatest physicists in the world in a poll that was conducted in 1999. His popularity can be attributed to semi-autobiographical books that revealed his contribution in physics. Feynman was also in the panel that was tasked with the responsibility of investigating the disaster of the Space Shuttle Challenger. In addition, he also assisted in atomic bomb development. He has received accreditation for pioneering quantum computing as well as introducing nanotechnology concept. Throughout his life, he was always popularizing physics via lectures as well as books. His books that were based on conversations and lectures eventually cemented him in the public’s mind and they eventually became best-sellers. He was regarded as a science explainer, a charismatic free-thinker, avid bongoist and a legendary prankster.

There has not been a physicist to match the exuberant command over theoretical science material that Feynman depicted. He always possessed a unique talent of dealing with equations in a way that made even complicated ones look easy. Many experts in science have always said that he had traits similar to those of Albert Einstein. He had synaesthesia that he used in explaining letters using mathematical functions. He was always keen on things that could affect his brain. That is why he quit alcohol after detecting alcoholism signs.

Apart from his success in the field of science, Feynman liked traveling. He went to different parts of the world giving lectures on physics. He travelled to Brazil and he was also intending to visit Tuva. However, bureaucratic problems emanating from cold war hindered him from going there. This American physicist also liked acting. He appeared Anti-clock film in which he is credited as a professor. He also liked drawing and playing percussion instrument. He died in February 15th 1988 after undergoing a surgery. He was suffering from Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia and Liposarcoma forms of cancer. Nevertheless, contribution of Richard Feynman has always made him a popular figure in the minds of people who love physics.

Richard Feynman biography and photo