Surely You'Re Joking, Mr. Feynman ... Essay

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"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard P. Feynman as told to Ralph Leighton Preface The stories in this book were collected intermittently and informally during seven years of very enjoyable drumming with Richard Feynman. I have found each story by itself to be amusing, and the collection taken together to be amazing: That one person could have so many wonderfully crazy things happen to him in one life is sometimes hard to believe. That one person could invent so much innocent mischief in one life is surely an inspiration! RALPH LEIGHTON Introduction I hope these won't be the only memoirs of Richard Feynman. Certainly the reminiscences here give a true picture of much of his character--his almost compulsive need to solve puzzles, his provocative mischievousness, his indignant impatience with pretension and hypocrisy, and his talent for one-upping anybody who tries to one-up him! This book is great reading: outrageous, shocking, still warm and very human. For all that, it only skirts the keystone of his life: science. We see it here and there, as background material in one sketch or another, but never as the focus of his existence, which generat ions of his students and colleagues know it to be. Perhaps nothing else is possible. There may be no way to construct such a series of delightful stories about himself and his work: the challenge and frustration, the excitement that caps insight, the deep pleasure of scientific understanding that has been the wellspring of happiness in his life. I remember when I was his student how it was when you walked into one of his lectures. He would be standing in front of the hall smiling at us all as we came in, his fingers tapping out a complicated rhythm on the black top of the demonstration bench that crossed the front of the lecture hall. As latecomers took their

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