“The key was somehow to know what was important and what was not important, what was exciting, because I can’t learn everything.” – Richard Feynman in 1966
If you don’t really have a head for math and science, physics may be the most intimidating subject of them all. It’s space and time, the make-up of the entire universe – incredibly abstract and mind-bending stuff, and enough to make a lot of students throw in the towel. And that’s where Professor Richard Feynman really made his mark – of course he did all kinds of groundbreaking work, like his theory of quantum electrodynamics…. he proposed the parton model in the field of particle physics… was even part of the atomic bomb project.
But he was also an amazing teacher, this dynamic and charismatic lecturer who made physics fun. He was one of those rare people who not only naturally understood math and science – he was actually able to make other people understand it too. And like it.
Starting in 1966, science historian Charles Weiner interviewed Richard Feynman as part of a big oral history project at the American Institute of Physics. Recording hours of conversation, Weiner captured the details of Feynman’s entire career, his whole life. In those hours, Feynman talked about his earliest memories – what and who shaped the world-famous physicist – and teacher he’d later become. And most influential of all…. a man who was neither a scientist nor a mathematician – a man who didn’t even have any formal education – his dad.
As part of our special series, The Experimenters — uncovering interviews with the icons of science, technology, and innovation — we found this interview with Feynman in the archives of the American Institute of Physics.