Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman

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From the author of the national bestseller Chaos comes an outstanding biography of one of the most dazzling and flamboyant scientists of the 20th century that "not only paints a highly attractive portrait of Feynman but also . . . makes for a stimulating adventure in the annals of science" (The New York Times). 16 pages of photos.
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From the author of the national bestseller Chaos comes an outstanding biography of one of the most dazzling and flamboyant scientists of the 20th century that "not only paints a highly attractive portrait of Feynman but also . . . makes for a stimulating adventure in the annals of science" (The New York Times). 16 pages of photos.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It would be hard to tell personal stories about the late Nobelist Feynman 1918-1988 better than the subject himself did in What Do You Care What Other People Think? To his credit, Gleick does not try. Rather, he depicts Feynman's ``curious character'' in its real context: the science he helped develop during physics' most revolutionary era. Fans of Feynman's own bestseller, ``Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! , '' won't be disappointed by his colleagues' recollections of his reckless obsession with doing science a grad-school dorm neighbor once opened Feynman's door to find him rolling on the floor as he worked on a problem; but the anecdotes punctuate an expanded account of Feynman the visceral working scientist, not Feynman the iconoclast. This biography wants to measure both the particle and the wave of 20th-century genius--Feynman's, Julian Schwinger's, Murray Gell-Mann's, and others'--in the quantum era. Gleick seems to have enjoyed the cooperation of Feynman's family plus that of a good many of his colleagues from the Manhattan Project and the Challenger inquiry in which Feynman played a scene-stealing role, and he steadily levies just enough of the burden of Feynman's genius on the reader so that the physicist remains, in the end, a person and not an icon of science. A genius could not hope for better. Gleick is the author of Chaos: The Making of A New Science. Oct.
Library Journal
When Nobel laureate Feynman died in 1988, the world lost one of the most creative, idiosyncratic, and important minds of the 20th century. From ``Feynman Diagrams'' to the Manhattan Project to the Challenger investigation, Feynman left his mark on everything and every life that he touched. Gleick, author of Chaos LJ 8/87, does a masterful job of capturing Feynman as both a scientist and as a mind at work: No better primer on Feynman's accomplishments will be written. Gleick is clear without condescension, accurate without being fussy, and thorough without being pedantic. As regards the personal minutiae of Feynman's life, this book is somewhat less comprehensive: Feynman's checkered history of personal relationships, for example, is not treated in the same exhaustive manner as his professional relationships. Feynman's personality, though, comes through in every word of this marvelous book. Although, astonishingly, Gleick never even met Feynman, he has written one of the most touching, affecting, and important works of scientific biography to have been produced in the last 30 years, a fine book that deserves a place in every collection. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/92; see also Feynman's personal narratives coauthored with Ralph Leighton, ``Surely You're Jok ing, Mr. Feynman , '' LJ 3/15/85, and `` What Do You Care What Other People Think? , '' LJ 11/15/88, as well as Leighton's Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman's Last Journey , LJ 3/1/91.--Ed.-- Mark L. Shelton, Athens, Ohio
Gleick (Chaos) gives us a major biography of one of science's most endearing figures (except to snobs & frauds). Feynman's brilliance, independence, humanity are readably displayed. His contributions to physics are interpreted for the lay reader. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Kirkus Reviews
"He is a second Dirac," Princeton's Eugene Wigner said, "only this time human." That's only one of the many pithy descriptions that Gleick (Chaos, 1987) quotes in this fine, monumental biography of a monumental figure in 20th-century physics. Readers whose appetites were whetted by the as-told-to collections of anecdotes in the Ralph Leighton books (Tuva or Bust!, 1991, etc.) will find gratification of a different kind here. There are wit and playfulness, yes, but what shines through is Richard Feynman's commitment to probe nature, a restlessness to understand why things happen, and the joy and beauty he felt when science yielded an answer—and that is the key to understanding what drove Feynman throughout his life. That, and a no-nonsense attitude that despised pretension, lofty language, and rote learning. In the post-Sputnik days of educational reform, Feynman was out in front criticizing the new math as utterly useless formalism (unless you could use it to explain to kids different orders of infinity). While Feynman was best known for his Nobel- winning work in quantum electrodynamics and subsequent achievements in particle physics, Gleick traces the many byways in the physicist's career: his study of helium superfluidity; his brief flirtation with molecular biology; his interest in sleep and dreams. And then there were his involvement with the Manhattan Project; the loss to tuberculosis of his beloved Arline; his relentless womanizing; his eventual marriage to Gweneth—the English woman he met on a beach in Geneva and arranged to bring over as his domestic servant; his children; his lectures; his refusal to take graduate students; his skepticism about grand unifiedtheories; the Challenger disaster. Gleick weaves all these threads into a rich portrait of an imperfect, complex, to-his-own-self-and-to-science-be-true figure, loved and admired, yet elusive. (Twenty-four pages of b&w photographs—not seen.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679747048
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1993
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: 1st Vintage Books ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 531
  • Sales rank: 172,871
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.14 (d)

Meet the Author

James Gleick ( was born in New York City in 1954. He worked for ten years as an editor and reporter for The New York Times, founded an early Internet portal, the Pipeline, and wrote three previous books: Chaos, Genius, and Faster. His latest book Isaac Newton is available from Pantheon. He lives in the Hudson Valley of New York with his wife.
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Table of Contents

Prologue 3
Far Rockaway 17
MIT 51
Princeton 93
Los Alamos 153
Cornell 207
CalTech 281
Epilogue 429
Acknowledgments 441
Notes 445
A Feynman Bibliography 493
Bibliography 499
Index 517
Illustration Credits 532
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2000

    A serious look at the Man: Dr.Richard Feyman

    I have read other books by this author. He describes his subjects with the utmost scrutiny. The other well known books about Dr. Feyman give him a superfical look of a very clever man. He was. They did not share his agonies, frustrations that were everlasting and devastating to most people. It might split many other people in pain. Looking at his career, successes, acknowledgements, and his God given abilities. Gleich helped me put Dr. Feyman's story in order to give him a human image which made me look at him with all the more admiration.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2012

    Great but complex read . . . Just like Feynman!

    I read Gleick's book on Isaac Newton several times and felt compelled to read this as well. For some reason I've been hearing more and more about Feynman lately and wanted to learn about him in depth. Gleick's book is absolutely fascinating, giving incredible detail about everything from his youth to women to relationships with other famous scientists of the day. The only reason I didn't give it 5 points is some of the science details were a bit overwhelming for my non-genius brain. Incredible man! A real gift to the world! Plan to read Chaos next!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2007

    More man than science

    Gleick is an outstanding writer, and this is an exceptional book. However, if you are looking for an indepth/dumbed down description of the science of Feynman, with charts and lots of analogies (as you would find in his other work 'Chaos'), then this book will disapoint.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2006

    A review of a Genius

    Genius is about Richard Feynman, an extraordinary physicist, and a very eccentric person. It documents his life, from birth to death and everywhere in between. It begins with his early childhood, his inspirations, and his discovery of physics. It details his undergraduate studies and his increased interest in quantum physics. It describes his journey through Princeton and Los Alamos as well as his Nobel Prize winning theory. Finally, the biography documents his works on the challenger disaster as well as his death. The author had good reason to write this biography. Richard Feynman was a very interesting and eccentric character. The author, in my opinion, might have been trying to show that even if you go against the flow, you might very well be right. Feynman developed the quantum theory of electronics despite the beliefs of the time which were contrary to his theory. It shows how one should pursue what one feels to be right in the face of adversity. Furthermore, Feynman played an integral part in many of the important scientific events of the mid 20th century and the author felt that he needed to be appreciated. As such, I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to read about a very interesting man who changed the course of history in some cases. If you are seeking to study quantum physics, this book contains many of the details necessary to understand Feynman¿s thoughts as well. All in all, it is quite a good read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2009

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