Awesome Men Throughout History: Richard Feynman
I don’t know about you guys, but I need something lighthearted after the Super Bowl. Yeesh. It was like watching the The Godfather if Denver was Sonny Corleone and Seattle was all those guys hiding near the tollbooth.
Luckily, this week’s Awesome Man Throughout History is a real doozy: Richard Feynman. Equal parts physicist, educator, and possibly-autistic goofball, Richard was tailor-made for columns like this. He was the Neil Degrasse-Tyson of our parents’ generation.
Richard’s contributions to science cannot be understated. For one thing, he was part of the Manhattan Project. Although his work was more theoretical and less directly involved with birthing the atom bomb, Richard worked on the “Water Boiler,” a small nuclear reactor at Los Alamos, and helped with safety procedures at the Oak Ridge facility after that.
Later, Richard would revolutionize quantum electrodynamics—the theory of the interaction between light and matter—and land himself a Nobel Prize in 1965 for his efforts. He was especially skilled at diagramming, and his pictorial representations of particle interactions (named Feynman diagrams, after him) are still prevalent in theoretical physics today.
I don’t really have the scientific education to go into any more detail about his career, which is a shame, but I can definitely expound on what made him such a cool, weird guy. Richard was a fan of strip clubs, and would use one as a remote office when he taught at Caltech. For real. He would sketch diagrams and write physics equations while girls half his age were trying to shake their cans in his face.
It gets better, though. When the county tried to shut the club down, Richard was the only patron to testify in favor of keeping it around, since he was the only one who didn’t care if anyone knew he went there. Richard told a courtroom that the strip club was a public need, due to all the craftsmen, technicians, and engineers who went there.
Can you imagine being a stripper in that place and trying to get the guy who’s been scribbling on placemats for an hour to buy a lap dance? The mind reels. That story would have been totally sleazy if it had been anyone else, but Richard Feynman was so good-natured that it ended up just being funny and endearing.
I’ll leave you with a snippet of one of Richard’s lectures, in which he explains the scientific method.
About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.