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on 23 March 2018
Sometimes obscure, especially to a non-mathematician, yet always engrossing and an insightful account of the life of Richard Feynman. Occasionally the author seems to deviate a little from his subject, yet often these meanderings reveal some hidden aspect to this colourful, brilliant and unforgettable character. Sufficient of the private life is revealed to provide a balance to the “drier” descriptions of academia. Highly recommended - would be 5 Stars if the physics and maths had been easier to understand, but the nature of the subject itself means few people are able to do that.
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on 28 March 2012
This is a 438 page, seriously researched, biography of Richard Feynman (1918-1988) the theoretical physicist famous mainly for work on quantum electrodynamics. I recommend it with the proviso it's difficult to understand particle physics. I didn't find it easy to understand the path integral formulation of quantum physics or Feynman diagrams, and my enjoyment came from getting a feel for Feynman's life and how he worked.

The book is chronological, focussed on his professional rather than personal life, ... growing up in Far Rockaway (western Long Island), education at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), graduate study and a Ph.D. (maths and physics) at Princeton. Feynman was involved, at a junior level, developing the nuclear bomb at Los Alamos. He went to Cornell (1945-1950) and Caltech (California Institute of Technology) for the rest of his career, winning the Nobel Prize in 1965. Always he showed a heavy concentration on maths and physics and a disregard of high culture.

The author talks about how Feynman approached problems (preferring to encounter a problem then independently work out it's solution), that he often didn't read the literature, that he searched (not so much necessarily for the deep truth about reality as) for a practical understanding - rules or algorithms -that gives the right answers. Gleick talks at length about the nature of scientific progress and genius. Feynman seems to have understood exactly what he was doing (studying a problem, guessing a solution that had testable implications ... and having it tested). His approach was intuitive and, reliant on the unconscious, inherently fast and difficult to explain. Keynes, writing about Newton, said Newton had terrific muscles of intuition that could hold a problem in the mind's-eye until it yielded up it's secrets. Feynman had something similar, a dogged, practical, single-minded intuition, coming at problems from unusual perspectives.
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on 18 April 2015
This is not necessarily a book full of the theories which made Richard Feynman's name, but it is certainly a comprehensive description of a man who is genuinely a great of twentieth century physics. We are taken from his country origins to academic beginnings, from the start witnessing an exceptional talent not seemingly awed in the presence of any other gifted people. Not to miss a thing, we are taken through Feynman's dealings with women, from tender to using, and find tragedy with humour.Feynman's interactions with other scientists makes some of the more interesting episodes in this tome, from laughter to rage. The overall impression of this book is one of a sometimes brilliant, sometimes annoying, and at other times very human person, who despite knocks comes out as an inspirational lecturer, incisive researcher, and possibly a true genius. I recommend this book as scientific history and touching biography.
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VINE VOICEon 22 June 2018
This book concentrates more on the physics than the man himself. It is strong on his early years when he made his name. It seems to rush through the last decades and feels quite light on personal details, perhaps because the author never met him.
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on 30 March 2014
I loved every page of this book. Gleick's prose is written in a jaunty, effortless style which (for anyone having seen the Feynman Lectures on film) is reminiscent of the great man's own on-stage delivery. It is extremely well balanced in terms of insights into the intimacies of Feynman's life, loves, hobbies etc, and the scientific breakthroughs he made/assisted with throughout the course of his life. The concepts are illustrated clearly without being over-exhaustive on the maths - in fact anyone who has a basic high school mathematical & scientific knowledge should find them easy to grasp. Feynman truly was a remarkable and inspiring character, and is every bit as worthy of recognition as some of the more well-known physicists of the 20th century, e.g. Oppenheimer, Hawking etc.
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on 12 April 2015
This book is very readable and makes some of the physics understandable - well enough to move on to the next chapter. It switches from personal details to the late C20th scientific developments in the USA. I would have liked to have less of the personal (as I believe Feynman would have wanted) and more of the scientific developments in Europe to act as counterpoint.
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on 20 November 2017
An in depth, insightful account of one of the most remarkable physicists - and thinkers - of the 20th Century. Gleick is a remarkably flexible story, capable of guiding the reader from Feynman’s personal tragedies to complex particle physics.
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on 6 April 2013
A well told biography of a complex character dedicated to discovery and proof. Despite the impossibility of my understanding in detail the work he did I felt I could clearly see why it was admired and the effect it had on furthering an understanding of the world around us. A good read.
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on 3 April 2015
Brilliantly written, and moving in many points. It goes down to some complex physics concept, to keep you hooked. I had underestimated this book as it came with a very low price and the cover looked unrefined, but it kept surprising me for the care in details and the technical references. Inspiring.
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on 4 April 2013
Feynman was a genius, but I think I liked the other biography more (Surely you're Joking).
This is a good book, and goes into a lot more depth - but the other has more of his character, and conveys his personality as it is rendered immortally on YouTube...
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