Richard Feynman was a physicist who enjoyed explaining the complex world of the science in ordinary terms. He was known for his sense of humor and love of the arts.
1. Birth & Family
Richard Feynman was born on May 11, 1918 in Manhattan New York. His mother Lucille was a stay at home Mom and father Melville Feynman worked as a sales manager. They were from Russia and Poland originally and both Ashkenazi Jews. Even with his ties to the Jewish faith, Richard considered himself an atheist.
2. The Manhattan Project
During World War II, Richard worked as a junior scientist on the Manhattan Project. The United States Army developed a team of well known scientists, considered the best in their field to develop the first atomic bombs.
3. Test Whiz
Richard earned a PhD at Princeton University in 1942. He was able to get a perfect score on the entrance exam in both physics and mathematics.
4. Winning the Nobel Prize
In 1965, Richard Feynman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. It was given to a group of physicists including Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger for their work in quantum electrodynamics. This work includes his Feynman Diagrams which are a visual representation of the way that particles interact.
5. Richard’s Sense of Humor
Feynman was a practical joker. He once played a prank that included tricking people into thinking nuclear secrets had been stolen by spies.
6. For the Love of Music
Richard Feynman enjoyed many activities. One of his hobbies was playing the bongo drums. Videos can be found online showing his skills.
7. Investigating the Challenger Tragedy
In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded on national television, crashing into the Atlantic Ocean. Afterwards, then President Ronald Reagan ordered an investigation that included a group of specialists. Richard Feynman was part of this group called the “Rogers Commission” which worked to find out what caused the wreck. Feynman was able to demonstrate the O-rings that failed was made less strong by the cold weather it was exposed to when it was at Cape Canvaveral. This was found to be the main cause of the disaster that killed all seven members of the space shuttle’s crew.
8. Feynman Paints
Richard liked to paint in his free time. He sold his paintings under another name “Ofey.” It was supposed to be “Au fait” (a French expression meaning “by the way”) but he misspelled it.
9. The Supportive Big Brother
Richard had a sister who was nine years younger than him. She loved astronomy and though their parents did not believe a girl was capable of studying the sciences, Richard encouraged her to follow her dreams. She later became an astrophysicist.
10. End of Life
Richard Feynman had two forms of cancer, both rare. They were Waldenstrom’s macroglobulinemia and liposarcoma. He died at the age of 69 on February 15, 1988. Even in his last days he kept his sense of humor. Richard’s last known words were “I’d hate to die twice. It’s so boring.”
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