PERFECTLY REASONABLE DEVIATIONS FROM THE BEATEN TRACK: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman

Richard Phillips Feynman, Author , foreword by Timothy Ferris. Basic $26 (512p) ISBN 978-0-7382-0636-3

Richard Feynman (1918–1988) has become an American scientific icon. He won the Nobel prize for physics in 1965 for his work on quantum electrodynamics; he became a bit of a television star with his shows explaining physical phenomena in readily understandable terms; and he became the hero of the federal committee investigating the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger when he demonstrated how O rings could fail under cold conditions. He was known as brash and iconoclastic, and a fabulous teacher. This collection of letters edited by Feynman's daughter presents brief glimpses into various facets of his personal and professional lives. Covering the years 1939 to 1987, the letters provide some insight into daily life during the Manhattan Project; others offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Challenger investigation. They also show Feynman to be a thoughtful educator, willing to write back to high school students asking for guidance in selecting a career and understanding physics. The energetic if decidedly colloquial prose underscores Feynman's exuberant nature and self-deprecating sense of humor, as well as his self-described "peculiarity" when he tried to resign from the National Academy of Sciences because he found it "psychologically distasteful to judge people's 'merit.' " 60 b&w photos. Agent, Melanie Jackson. $125,000 national marketing campaign. (Apr. 12)

Reviewed on: 03/14/2005
Release date: 04/01/2005
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