Few human beings have advanced science further than Richard Feynman. Even fewer scientists have made their work so profoundly human. Now this brilliant biography vividly illumines the immense achievement and all-encompassing humanity of the Nobel prizewinner who was arguably the first physicist of his generation, the most inspiring and influential mentor and teacher, and to those who knew and loved him, a practical joker, safecracker, and bongo player supreme in the constellation of scientific stars. We follow ...
Few human beings have advanced science further than Richard Feynman. Even fewer scientists have made their work so profoundly human. Now this brilliant biography vividly illumines the immense achievement and all-encompassing humanity of the Nobel prizewinner who was arguably the first physicist of his generation, the most inspiring and influential mentor and teacher, and to those who knew and loved him, a practical joker, safecracker, and bongo player supreme in the constellation of scientific stars. We follow Feynman growing up in a decade shadowed by the Great Depression and the gathering storm of World War II, going to universities where Jewish quotas were still the norm and where he dazzled professors and peers with the swiftness of his intellect and directness of his insight, which marked him early as a major figure. We see him, as well, as a handsome young man filled with zest for life and love, blessed with wit and charm. With his entry into the project to develop the atomic bomb, we watch him flower in the company of scientific greats, even as he pursued the epochal investigations into quantum electrodynamics that would win him the Nobel Prize. This landmark study of how electricity and magnetism work was but the first achievement in a career that reached into varied areas of physics and resulted in remarkable discoveries.
Much of the information in this latest offering in Dutton's Life in Science series is redundant of the famed scientist's own remembrances (Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman; What Do You Care What Other People Think?). Those unfamiliar with the life and work of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, however, should find this anecdote- and science-rich study an excellent introduction. Best known for his groundbreaking work in quantum electrodynamics, Feynman was revered as an exceptional educator, teaching at such famed posts as Cornell and Cal Tech. Unconventional by the standards of both academia and science, he was also an avid drummer and amateur artist. Feynman reveled in new challenges, disdained pomposity and was not above poking fun at himself or perpetrating a practical joke on others. Here, Feynman's life is followed from his Brooklyn childhood through his work in theoretical physics; his achievements in solving such concrete problems as the Challenger disaster are detailed as well. The Gribbins (In Search of Schrodinger's Cat and more than 40 other books) convey their material in a clear, well-organized fashion, with John Gribbin's background as an astrophysicist at Cambridge University seeming to add depth and historical perspective to the discussion of Feynman's scientific accomplishments, including the easily understood explanations of Feynman's theories of quantum physics. Drawings; photos not seen by PW. BOMC selection; Library of Science and Astronomy Book Club main selections. (July)
Over the last decade, the number of books published by or about the brilliant scientist Richard Feynman constitutes what might be called "Feynmania." Conscious of this, the authors (Fire on Earth: In Search of the Doomsday Asteroid, LJ 6/1/96) begin this book by asking: "Does the world really need another book about Richard Feynman?" Obviously, they think so. They aspire to show both the ingenious scientific and quirky human sides of the man, which they do admirably. Still, their own question remains. James Gleick's Genius (LJ 10/1/92) is the definitive biography, but it may be too ponderous for some readers. More personal accounts can be found in Christopher Sykes's No Ordinary Genius (LJ 4/15/94) and in Feynman's own Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman (LJ 3/15/85). Collectively, they cover all of the territory of this new book. "Feynmaniacs" will find nothing new here, but Gribbin's work might find a niche among public library patrons.Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables