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Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's Life in Science (Great Discoveries) Reprint Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393340655
ISBN-10: 0393340651
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Physicist Richard Feynman has a reputation as a bongo-playing, hard-partying, flamboyant Nobel Prize laureate for his work on quantum electrodynamics theory, but this tends to obscure the fact that he was a brilliant thinker who continued making contributions to science until his death in 1988. He foresaw new directions in science that have begun to produce practical applications only in the last decade: nanotechnology, atomic-scale biology like the manipulation of DNA, lasers to move individual atoms, and quantum engineering. In the 1960s, Feynman entered the field of quantum gravity and created important tools and techniques for scientists studying black holes and gravity waves. Author Krauss (The Physics of Star Trek), an MIT-trained physicist, doesn't necessarily break new ground in this biography, but Krauss excels in his ability, like Feynman himself, to make complicated physics comprehensible. He incorporates Feynman's lectures and quotes several of the late physicist's colleagues to aid him in this process. This book is highly recommended for readers who want to get to know one of the preeminent scientists of the 20th century.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“A lively and engrossing biography of a lively and engrossing man.” (Steven Pinker)

Product Details

  • Series: Great Discoveries
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (March 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393340651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393340655
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #437,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born in New York City and shortly afterward moved to Toronto, spending my childhood in Canada. I received undergraduate degrees in mathematics and physics from Carleton University, and my Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982.

After a stint in the Harvard Society of Fellows, I became an assistant professor at Yale University in 1985 and Associate Professor in 1988. I moved in 1993 to become Ambrose Swasey Professor of Physics, professor of astronomy, and Chairman of the Physics Department at Case Western Reserve University In August 2008 I joined the faculty at Arizona State University as Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Director of the University's Origins Initiative. In 2009 we inaugurated this this initiative with the Origins Symposium [www.origins.asu.edu] in which 80 of the world's leading scientists participated, and 3000 people attended.

I write regularly for national media, including The New York Times, the Wall St. Journal, Scientific American (for which I wrote a regular column last year), and other magazines, as well as doing extensive work on radio and television. I am strongly committed to public understanding of science, and have helped lead the national effort to preserve sound science teaching, including the teaching of evolution. I also served on Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign science policy committee. In 2008 I became co-chair of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and in 2010 was elected to the Board of Directors of the Federation of American Scientists.

I became a scientist in part because I read books by other scientists, such as Albert Einstein, George Gamow, Sir James Jeans, etc, when I was a child, and my popular writing returns the favor. One of my greatest joys is when a young person comes up to me and tells me that one of my books motivated them to become a scientist.

I believe science is not only a vital part of our culture, but is fun, and I try and convey that in my books and lectures. I am honored that Scientific American referred to me as a rare scientific public intellectual, and that all three three major US Physics Societies: the American Physical Society, the American Association of Physics Teachers, and the American Institute of Physics, have seen fit to honor me with their highest awards for research and writing.

My research focuses on the beginning and end of the Universe. Among my contributions to the field of cosmology, I helped lead the search for dark matter, and first proposed the existence of dark energy in 1995.

When I have the chance, I love to mountain bike, fly fish, and scuba dive. I spend a tremendous amount of time on planes now, alas, and enjoy flying, but hate airports..

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I still remember the day when, as a kid, I first came across the irrepressible Richard Feynman's memoirs "Surely you're joking Mr. Feynman". Within a few hours I was laughing so hard that tears were coming out of my eyes. Whether he was fixing radios 'by thinking', devising novel methods of cutting string beans in a restaurant or cracking the safes at Los Alamos, Feynman was unlike any scientist I had ever come across. Feynman died in 1988 and James Gleick's engaging and masterful biography of him appeared in 1993. Jagdish Mehra's dense, authoritative scientific biography came out in 1996. Since then there has been a kind of "Feynman industry" in the form of tapes, books, transcripts, interviews and YouTube video clips. While this has kept Feynman alive, it has also turned him into a kind of larger-than-life legend who is more famous in the public mind for his pranks and other exploits than for his science. Most laymen will tell you that Feynman was a brilliant scientist but would be hard-pressed to tell you what he was famous for. It's time that we were again reminded of what most contributed to Richard Feynman's greatness- his science. Lawrence Krauss's biography fulfills this role. You could think of Gleick's biography as a kind of Renaissance painting, an elaborate piece of work where he gets everything accurate down to the eyebrows of the men, women and Gods. Krauss's biography is more like the evocative impressionistic art of the French masters, more of a lucid sketch that brings out the essence of Feynman the scientist.

The biography is essentially aimed at explaining Feynman's scientific contributions, their relevance, importance and uniqueness. Thus Krauss wisely avoids pondering over oft-repeated details about Feynman's personal life.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm an engineer. Over the years I have probably read all the popular books by and about Feynman, and like many others with an interest in physics I own his three volume 'Feynman Lectures on Physics'. I knew I had to buy this little book, when in a bookstore I opened it to a random spot and in a few seconds learned something new about Feynman. (Did I say 'little', well that was my first impression and the pages are small, but there are 320 of them.)

For years I have read about the principle of 'least action' and knew it was one of the keys to Feynman's work, but I never really understood it. Krauss's writing is so clear (even sans equations, or maybe because of it) I now understand the concept, so from this book I am not only learning a little more about Feynman, I am learning some physics too.

This is a biography that focuses on Feynman's technical work. Krauss is not a science writer, though he has done a lot of writing, he is a top rank theoretical physicist, author of 300 papers, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State Univ. I'm so impressed by this book, even though I am now only 20% into it, I had to write to tell Feynman fans ... Buy this book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This new volume, very well written by one of the best popular authors on physics, fills a gap in the Feynman bookshelf. At one end is the best biography of Feynman, "Genius" by James Gleick, which includes much personal history. At the other, "QED", by Sylvan Schweber, which covers the entire sweep of the work by Feynman, Dyson, Schwinger, Tomonaga and others on quantum electrodynamics, the centerpiece of Feynman's legacy.

Krauss writes a mainly scientific biography, and manages to cover this work without mathematical detail, but with well-chosen technical illustrations, which give the flavor of the work. Gleick provides much more on the personal life, and if you have the background, Schweber will fill in the details of QED. (If you want more background on Feynman diagrams, beyond the very good introduction in this book, I recommend "Drawing Theories Apart" by David Kaiser.)

Of course one must also read Feynman's own popular writings, both his own and those co-authored, and at the undergraduate level I wish I had his "Lectures on Physics" when I was a student in the early 1950's.

The new Krauss book definitely deserves 5 stars.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of Feynman and have read most of many biographies of him and read through his more technical stuff (Feynman Lectures on Gravitation, computation, statistical mechanics, and of course the lectures on physics) so I was a bit confused as to what more could be said. I was pleasantly surprised by this little (320 pages but large font) book that is not a biography of Feynman but a biography of the ideas he had. And he had many ideas!

The other reviews describe my thoughts quite well and I give it five stars for being an excellent scientific biography. It clarified a lot of what I'd heard about the ideas Feynman did and much of the historical context - I always knew Dyson was integral in QED but never quite understood what he did exactly.

My only qualm would be that the lay reader might have a challenge getting through this. My background is in physics so it made for a light read as most of the concepts I had encountered before and understand fairly well. Krauss is not afraid to use technical language (I don't think I've read a popular science book that drops the word Lagrangian so casually) and many of the concepts in this book are first encountered by physics majors at a graduate level (of course in their full glorious mathematical detail) so don't be surprised if you're re-reading sections over and over again to try and understand what is going. Saying that, the explanations are very lucid (for me at least) and well thought out.

I highly recommend this book to any aspiring physics major or working physicist. The section on Wheeler-Feynman theory is quite nifty and I've never seen it presented so clearly elsewhere. For the layman, be warned that this book is not as light-hearted and easy as Feynman's other non-technical work and can't just be read in passing.
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