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Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynmanby Richard P. Feynman and Michelle Feynman
Synopses & Reviews
"I'm an explorer, OK? I like to find out!" — One of the towering figures of twentieth-century science, Richard Feynman possessed a curiosity that was the stuff of legend. Even before he won the Nobel Prize in 1965, his unorthodox and spellbinding lectures on physics secured his reputation amongst students and seekers around the world. It was his outsized love for life, however, that earned him the status of an American cultural icon — here was an extraordinary intellect devoted to the proposition that the thrill of discovery was matched only by the joy of communicating it to others.
In this career-spanning collection of letters, many published here for the first time, we are able to see this side of Feynman like never before. Beginning with a short note home in his first days as a graduate student, and ending with a letter to a stranger seeking his advice decades later, Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track covers a dazzling array of topics and themes, scientific developments and personal histories. With missives to and from scientific luminaries, as well as letters to and from fans, family, students, crackpots, as well as everyday people eager for Feynman's wisdom and counsel, the result is a wonderful de facto guide to life, and eloquent testimony to the human quest for knowledge at all levels.
Feynman once mused that "people are 'entertained' enormously by being allowed to understand a little bit of something they never understood before." As edited and annotated by his daughter, Michelle, these letters not only allow us to better grasp the how and why of Feynman's enduring appeal, but also to see the virtues of an inquiring eye in spectacular fashion. Whether discussing the Manhattan Project or developments in quantum physics, the Challenger investigation or grade-school textbooks, the love of his wife or the best way to approach a problem, his dedication to clarity, grace, humor, and optimism is everywhere evident..
"Richard Feynman (1918 1988) has become an American scientific icon. He won the Nobel prize for physics in 1965 for his work on quantum electrodynamics; he became a bit of a television star with his shows explaining physical phenomena in readily understandable terms; and he became the hero of the federal committee investigating the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger when he demonstrated how O rings could fail under cold conditions. He was known as brash and iconoclastic, and a fabulous teacher. This collection of letters edited by Feynman's daughter presents brief glimpses into various facets of his personal and professional lives. Covering the years 1939 to 1987, the letters provide some insight into daily life during the Manhattan Project; others offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Challenger investigation. They also show Feynman to be a thoughtful educator, willing to write back to high school students asking for guidance in selecting a career and understanding physics. The energetic if decidedly colloquial prose underscores Feynman's exuberant nature and self-deprecating sense of humor, as well as his self-described 'peculiarity' when he tried to resign from the National Academy of Sciences because he found it 'psychologically distasteful to judge people's 'merit.' 60 b&w photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Few books really are 'a joy to read.' This one, full of charm and wisdom, truly is." New Scientist
"Just when you thought the fount of Feynmaniana had run dry comes this splendid collection of letters" Kirkus (Starred Review)
Spanning over forty years, these collected letters offer an unprecedented look at the writer and thinker whose, genius for science and life made him a a legend in his own time. With missives to and from such scientific luminaries as Victor Weisskopf, Stephen Wolfram, James Watson, and Edward Teller, alongside a remarkable selection of letters to and from fans, students, family, and, people from around the world eager for Feynman's advice and counsel, Infinite Variety not only illuminates the personal relationships that underwrote the key developments in modern science, but also forms the most intimate lens on Feynman yet available. An eloquent testimony to the virtue of approaching the world with an, inquiring eye, this collection reveals the wisdom of a man many felt close to but few really knew, and demonstrates the full extent of the Feynman legacy like never before. Edited and with additional commentary by his daughter Michelle, it's a must-read for Feynman fans everywhere, and for anyone seeking to better understand one of the towering figures — and defining personalities — of the twentieth century.
Spanning over 40 years, these collected letters offer an unprecedented look at the writer and thinker whose genius for science and life made him a a legend in his own time. Edited and with additional commentary by his daughter Michelle, it's a must-read for Feynman fans everywhere.
An extraordinary volume of never-before-published letters written by one of America's most beloved scientists
About the Author
Richard P. Feynman was raised in Far Rockaway, New York, and received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1942. He played an important role in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, and went on to professorships at both Cornell University and the California Institute of Technology, where his unconventional lecture style secured his reputation as one of the greatest teachers of his era. In 1965 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on the development of the theory of quantum electrodynamics.
Besides his work as a physicist, Feynman was at various times an artist, raconteur, bongo player, and safecracker, as well as the author of many books, including the bestselling Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, and Six Easy Pieces, named one of the best 100 nonfiction books of the twentieth century by The Modern Library. He died in 1988.
Michelle Feynman lives with her husband and two children in Altadena, California.
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