the biographical sketches
Richard Phillips Feynman, an American physicist. Born on May 11, 1918, in New York City. He died on February 15, 1988. As a child, he was fascinated by mathematics and electronics. He became known in his neighborhood as the boy who repairs radios. Feynman graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1939. He obtained a Ph.D. degree in physics from Princeton University in 1942. His thesis was, A Principle of Least Action in Quantum Mechanics. He developed the theory of Quantum Electrodynamics, or QED. This theory is concerned with the interaction of electromagnetic waves with atoms. The interaction of light with atoms and electrons. Feynman worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the first nuclear weapons were being designed. He was responsible for the computations that were used to predict the behavior of neutrons in atomic explosions. After the war, Feynman moved to Cornell University. Hans Bethe was building a school of theoretical physicists there. Feynman continued to work on QED. He was a professor at the California Institute of Technology, until 1950. Feynman was renowned as an enthusiastic teacher and for being a notorious practical joker. He made two discoveries while in California. Using liquid helium, he developed the Theory of Superfluidity. Superfluidity is a state in which a substance flows with no resistance. Feynman and Murray Gell Mann studied the force that causes slow nuclear reactions, such as beta decay. The emission of electrons or positrons by radioactive substances.
They also studied the force that holds together the nucleus of an atom. Feynman predicted that protons and neutrons were composed of smaller particles. Today we know that he was correct. We call these smaller particles, quarks. He published a written version of his undergraduate lectures in 1963. The Feynman Lectures on Physics. These are a standard reference in physics. Two other men had been working independently on QED. Julian Schwinger and Tomonaga Shin’ichiro. In 1965, the three men shared the Nobel Prize in physics for their work on QED. Each man had developed his own method for calculating the interaction between electrons, positrons, and photons. QED is the most accurate physical theory. Feynman used diagrams to illustrate how particles moved in space and time. He defined the rules for calculating the probability for each diagram. He then added the probabilities of all the diagrams. The result was the probability of the physical process. Feynman's diagrams became the standard way of representing particle interactions. Feynman wrote thirty-seven research papers in his career. He also wrote collections of anecdotes about his life. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman and What Do YOU Care What Other People Think? He loved to play the bongo drums. He dreamed of visiting Tuva.
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2002. © 1993-2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
Edited by Michael Hawes