© The Nobel Foundation
Richard Feynman

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Richard P. Feynman: Nobel Prize in Physics-1965

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Richard P. Feynman was an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, 1965, which he shared with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger, for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles.

He was born on May 22, 1918, in New York City, New York. His parents were Lucille Phillips and Melville Feynman, who had immigrated from Europe. His father came from Minsk, Belarus, and his mother came from Poland.

Richard received an education from the New York City public schools. He was an outstanding math student and very competitive. In his senior year in Far Rockaway High School, he won the New York University Math Championship.

Feynman had trouble entering college because of the quota system for minorities and anti-Semitism. He finally was accepted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he obtained his Bachelor of Science in 1939. He then went to Princeton University where he earned his Ph.D., 1942.

In 1942, Feynman became part of a group who were working on the atomic bomb project at Princeton University. They were working on a theory of how to separate Uranium 235 from Uranium 238

After the war, he became a professor of physics at Cornell University, 1945-1959. He then went to the California Institute of Technology where he was a professor of Theoretical Physics, 1950-1959. He then became the Richard Chace Tolman Professor of Theoretical Physics.

Richard Feynman was a person of many talents. He wrote a book of reminiscences, “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman.” The book was on the New Times bestseller list for 14 weeks.

He attracted national attention during the Roger Commission hearings on the Challenger space shuttle accident in 1986. Being frustrated by the slow bureaucratic procedures and vague witnesses’ answers, conducted an impromptu experiment. He dunked a piece of the rocket’s booster O-ring into a cup of ice water and quickly showed that it lost all resiliency at low temperature. In the final report, he accused the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of “playing Russian roulette” with astronauts’ lives.

Richard P. Feynman received many awards and honors:
● Albert Einstein Award, Princeton University,1954
● Einstein Award, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1962
● Lawrence Award, 1962
● A member of the American Association for the advancement of Science, 1965
● A member of the Academy of Science, 1965
● A member of Royal Society, London, Great Britain, 1965

Richard P. Feynman was married to Gweneth Howarth and they had a son, Carl Richard, and a daughter, Michelle Catherine.

He died on February 15, 1988, in Los Angeles, California.

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