If you’ve never heard of Richard Feynman you are not alone. I was only introduced to him recently when I started watching the Symphony of Science videos. He appears in a few songs, but is prominently featured in the second video, “We Are All Connected.”
Feynman was an American physicist whose theories on quantum mechanics, particle physics and quantum electrodynamics made him one of the most renowned scientists in the world. He was a key member of the Manhattan Project. Despite expressing some regrets for the part he played the atomic bomb’s development, Feynman knew that if they hadn’t made the discovery someone else would have. In interviews later in his life he talked about how, during the 50s and 60s, he believed that humanity was doomed to destroy itself. Feynman even mentioned thinking that people were foolish to make long-term plans because nuclear war was inevitable.
Thankfully Feynman’s sense of impending destruction didn’t keep him from working. He was a genius in the truest sense of the word (although he would have never said this himself). When you hear Feynman speak his intelligence doesn’t jump out right away. He had a thick Brooklyn accent and was extremely self deprecating. Unlike many scientists he was also extremely funny. His lectures were more like standup routines than classroom speaches. He took pride in developing ways to teach complex theories to non-physicists. He often taught freshman-level courses for this reason. For Feynman, science was fun and he encouraged others to have fun with it too.