The Life and Science of Richard Feynman
New York Times Bestseller: This life story of the quirky physicist is “a thorough and masterful portrait of one of the great minds of the century” (The New York Review of Books). Raised in Depression-era Rockaway Beach, physicist Richard Feynman was irreverent, eccentric, and childishly enthusiastic—a new kind of scientist in a field that was in its infancy. His quick mastery of quantum mechanics earned him a place at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project under J. Robert Oppenheimer, where the giddy young man held his own among the nation’s greatest minds. There, Feynman turned theory into practice, culminating in the Trinity test, on July 16, 1945, when the Atomic Age was born. He was only twenty-seven. And he was just getting started. In this sweeping biography, James Gleick captures the forceful personality of a great man, integrating Feynman’s work and life in a way that is accessible to laymen and fascinating for the scientists who follow in his footsteps.
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.