Monday, July 23, 2012

Feynman, by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick

I'm feeling pretty positive about the day; having stumbled upon this book at the local public library this morning, I'm celebrating my good fortune.    Because this is one of the most interesting biographies I've come across.

Now any biography about Richard Feynman is apt to be interesting:  Nobel Prize winner, somewhat of a whack job, he was famous for probing questions in directions no one else considered.   If you're interested in physics, Feynman is a hero.

What makes this biography stand out is the approach:  it is in graphic novel format.   (As my spouse said, "you're reading a comic book?")    This really works.  It works incredibly well.

If you have any interest in science (especially physics) and in getting a sense of the personality of one of the 20th century's top American physicists, read this book.   You're going to want to follow up by reading Feynman's "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) "   And, if you have the scientific background (or stamina), the first six chapters of his "The Feynman Lectures on Physics " is available as "Six easy pieces:  essentials of  physics explained by its most brilliant teacher."

By the way, in case you're curious about the other American scientists honored on the US postage stamp besides Feynman, they are:   Barbara McClintock, an early geneticist (whose work on maize makes me wonder if she was the innovative mind that inadvertently led to GMO crops, just as Feyman and others working on the atomic bomb with reservations afterwards about the long lived impact of their efforts);  Joshiah Gibbs, who received the first doctorate in engineering (1863) in the USA and invented vector calculus (a painful topic for some folks who struggled through differential equations);  and John von Neumann, (born in Budapest but the US takes credit for him!) who did so much breakthrough work in math, statistics, physics and computer science that I wouldn't know where to begin to describe him .

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