Cerebral Shangrila

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Surely you're joking,Mr.Feynman -- Book Review

I love reading biographies/autobiographies and have read countless of them but have to admit this is the most hilarious and unusual autobiography that I have ever read.

What would you expect the autobiography of a nobel prize winning physicsist (Richard Feynman) to be ? Dull,filled with equations,lecturing . Feynman's autobiography is anything but that . He is Mark Twain & Albert Einstein & Robin Williams (yeah the funny actor) all rolled into one.
This book is not a typical autobiography but a collection of his eccentric escapedes & adventures.

The Man : His achievements are breath taking. An MIT,Princeton Grad who was part of "Project Manhattan" ( Atom Bomb development during WW2), Professor at Caltech , Nobel Prize Winner (Physics) in 1965 and one of the leading lights of quantum electrodynamics.Behind this serious face is an eccentric ,free-wheeling spirit.

The book is replete with humor & fun. His fascination with languages ( He learnt Spanish,Portuguese,Japanese) , his career as an amateur musician ( bongo drums) , dabbling with arts ( He learnt painting after an argument with a friend over Arts Vs Science) and selling a few of his paintings , Learning how to pick a girl in a bar from an illiterate friend , doing the math behind the gambling in Las vegas , feeling terribly uncomfortable about the parties after winnng the Nobel Prize .Also amusing are his meetings with other celebrities such as Pauli,Enrico Fermi,Niels Bohr, Von Neumann.

Some excerpts from the book :

" When I was a student at MIT I was interested only in science; I was no good at anything else.But at MIT there was a rule:You have to take some humanities courses to get more "culture".I found astronomy & philosophy as humanities courses and signed up for them right away ! It was the closest thing to science I could find"

" You will be interested and amused to know that you are now talking to the chief research scientist of the Metaplast Corp,whose staff consisted of one bottle-washer!"

" I went to register for the spanish class, when this pneumatic blonde came along.She looked terrific.I said to myself "May be she is going to be in Spanish Class -- that'll be great !" But she walked into portuguese class.So I figured, what the hell- I might as well learn Portuguese" .

Behind all this humor,fun & eccentricity lies a razor sharp mind,insatiable curiosity and intellectual honesty. Feynman lived life to the fullest and could have never done it better !

P.S : Here is more on Richard Feynman from Wikipedia.


  • seems like a interesting book..if you come across the PDF version just pass it across.

    By Blogger gormandizer, at 2:10 PM  

  • available in library? should be fun to give it a read.

    By Blogger Abhishek Chatterjee, at 4:50 PM  

  • I dont think I will get it my library, have to search for it :(

    By Blogger ILA (a) இளா, at 5:33 PM  

  • Damn nice. I guess the book itself is much more than what is said here.Lucky to have got my hands to it..finished it in one night..lovely read..

    Random Access
    The search has just begun !!!

    By Blogger Random Access, at 1:52 AM  

  • According to me, these category of books will be interesting only if they are humourous as well as practical... It will be a fun to read these books.

    By Blogger Ram C, at 9:27 AM  

  • Pneumatic Blonde - LOL :) Though thinking now....they do look like that.!!

    Looks like an interesting book. I'll give it a shot.

    By Blogger Narayanan Venkitu, at 7:09 AM  

  • Heard a lot abt this book.. Dying to get my hands on it.. Does anyone have an online copy? Not able to get one...

    By Blogger Viggy, at 2:26 AM  

  • gormandizer -- dai..buy a copy from daryaganj mkt.

    Abhi -- yes sir. I just returned it.

    ila -- try blore second hand book mkt

    Random -- yes. nice read

    ram.c -- yeah humor makes any book interesting

    venkitu -- u shud get it in the US public libraries

    vignesh -- not sure abt online copy

    By Blogger Cogito, at 2:02 PM  

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