Synopses & Reviews
A genius, a great mathematician once said, performs magic, does things that nobody else could do. To his scientific colleagues, Richard Feynman was a magician of the highest caliber. Architect of quantum theories, enfant terrible of the atomic bomb project, caustic critic of the space shuttle commission, Nobel Prize winner for work that gave physicists a new way of describing and calculating the interactions of subatomic particles, Richard Feynman left his mark on virtually every area of modern physics.
Originality was his obsession. Never content with what he knew or with what others knew, Feynman ceaselessly questioned scientific truths. But there was also another side to him, one which made him a legendary figure among scientists. His curiosity moved well beyond things scientific: he taught himself how to play drums, to give massages, to write Chinese, to crack safes.
In Genius, James Gleick, author of the acclaimed best-seller Chaos, shows us a Feynman few have seen. He penetrates beyond the gleeful showman depicted in Feynman's own memoirs and reveals a darker Feynman: his ambition, his periods of despair and uncertainty, his intense emotional nature.
From his childhood on the beaches and backlots of Far Rockaway and his first tinkering with radios and differential equations to the machine shops at MIT and the early theoretical work at Princeton - work that foreshadowed his famous notion of antiparticles traveling backward in time - to the tragic death of his wife while he was working at Los Alamos, Genius shows how one scientist's vision was formed. As that vision crystallized in work that reinvented quantum mechanics, we see Feynman's impact on the elite particle-physics community, and how Feynman grew to be at odds with the very community that idolized him. Finally, Gleick explores the nature of genius, our obsession with it and why the very idea may belong to another time.
Genius records the life of a scientist who has forever changed science - and changed what it means to know something in this uncertain century.
To his colleagues, Richard Feynman was not so much a genius as he was a full-blown magician: someone who does things that nobody else could do and that seem completely unexpected. The path he cleared for twentieth-century physics led from the making of the atomic bomb to a Nobel Prize-winning theory of quantam electrodynamics to his devastatingexpose of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. At the same time, the ebullient Feynman established a reputation as an eccentric showman, a master safe cracker and bongo player, and a wizard of seduction.
Now James Gleick, author of the bestselling Chaos, unravels teh dense skein of Feynman s thought as well as the paradoxes of his character in a biography which was nominated for a National Book Award of outstanding lucidity and compassion."
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.
About the Author
James Gleick (www.around.com) 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.