title: Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman

author: James Gleick

genre: Non-Fiction, physics, biographical

borrowed from: Dad

dates read: March 9th – March 20th

review: 4 out of 5 stars

summary: Gleick chronicles the personal and professional life of Richard P. Feynman, famous physicist who worked on the atomic bomb, helped refine and create scientific theories, and won a Nobel Prize, among many other things. This narrative talks about the influence he had on other physicists and those physicists whose work influenced him. A blend of his scientific theories and more personal stories, this gives a richer and fuller picture of who Feynman was.

personal thoughts: This took me a while to read, which resulted from a combination of things, namely that the first week I had almost no free time to read. Also, this is a lengthy book with 438 pages. Thirdly, a lot of the scientific parts were difficult for me to follow. Fortunately Gleick mixed it up with beautiful narratives of Feynman’s personal life. It was interesting to read about some of the stories that were mentioned in “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” It also included some background on how that book was written and received.

It still boggles my mind that people like Feynman exist, those who can take such abstract ideas and spend their lives studying and refining them. I admire such minds and the persistence it takes to see the fruits of one’s labor (and in some cases not see it at all but try to have faith that you’re right and will have made a difference through your life’s work).

favorite quotes:
“Amid the legend were misconceptions about Feynman’s accomplishments, his working style, and his deepest beliefs.  His own view of himself worked less to illuminate than to hid the nature of his genius.” p. 11

“He made islands of practical knowledge in the oceans of personal ignorance that remained. . .” p. 15

“Science …offered the appearance of a level landscape, where the rules seemed mathematical and clear, free from the hidden variables of taste and class.” p. 23

“…a scientist need not be responsible for the entire world,…social irresponsibility might be a reasonable stance.” p. 182

“He could not shake a feeling that normal people, without the burden of his accursed knowledge, were living a pitiful illusion, like ants tunneling and building before the giant’s boot comes down.” p. 264, 265


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