“Richard Feynman was a legend for a whole generation of scientists, long before anyone in the public knew who he was,” writes Krauss (Physics/Arizona State Univ.; The Physics of Star Trek, 2007 etc.) in this engaging biography.
The author’s first introduction to the physicist who became a hero to him occurred in high school, when a science teacher gave him Feynman's (1918–1988) popular work The Character of Physical Law. In 1974, Krauss, then an undergraduate physics major, attended a keynote address by Feynman, and a photo of him talking to the physicist appeared in a national magazine. However, it was really only after the 1986 Challenger disaster that Feynman's name became widely known—as a member of the NASA investigatory panel, he placed an O-ring in a glass of ice water, demonstrating its vulnerability to cold. This incident encapsulates Feynman's creative genius and his ability to solve puzzles by unconventional means—whether about the foundations of quantum physics or simply a matter of poor engineering. Krauss traces how he refused to accept the conventional wisdom on any subject but would scrutinize it from different points of view before coming to his own conclusion. Feynman's work has had an impact on almost every aspect of modern science today, from nanotechnology to particle physics, semi-conductors and high-temperature superconductors. In the author's view, he was arguably the most important scientist in the latter half of the 20th century, comparable to Einstein in influence, although his genius was not to achieve fundamentally new results but to look at “old things from a new viewpoint.” Krauss explains the complicated scientific material in a clear, lively style that would have earned Feynman's approval.A worthy addition to the Feynman shelf and a welcome follow-up to the standard-bearer, James Gleick's Genius (1992).