18 Dec Book Review: Feynman
There has been many things told about Richard Philips Feynman, both in this website and in other platforms. There has been much written about him too. In fact, we decided to devote our first ever video on his life and works. Such attention to one person, that too a scientist is rare. So what made Feynman so special? Apart from the fact that he was one of the most original theoretical physicists the world has ever seen, Feynman was also a very fun character. His contempt for authority and his love for physics are widely known everywhere in academia. There is perhaps not a single scientist who has not heard about the Feynman story and has been not inspired by that story. I am no exception to this, and I consider myself a hard-core Feynmanist.
This week, I has the pleasure of reading a book which I have been wanting to read for a long time. Not an ordinary book but it is rather a graphic biography titled Feynman written by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by Leland Myrick. For those of you, who are new to the idea of a graphic book, it is much like a comic book but which is a tad bit more serious. This book describes the life of Feynman in around 260 pages full of very nice illustrations. It tells his story in full, right from his childhood in Far Rockaway to his life at CalTech, through the Nobel Prize in physics to the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. Every good Feynman story finds a place in this amazing book.
The book may seem a bit childish for grown ups, but I can assure you that you will have the time of your life with this exciting and wonderfully thought out and executed book. There is not a single dull moment in the whole sequence of works. Some parts may be repetition if you know the Feynman lore well, but still this book will be worth the while just for the amazing illustrations it contains. Both Ottaviani and Myrick deserve all the credit for bringing out the originality of Feynman in this book. The way he talked (which can be viewed in some interviews online) and the way he thought has been aptly portrayed in this book. Readers will recognize some of the famous photographs of Feynman being illustrated in this work.
The only part that this book doesn’t cover quite well is Feynman’s work in science. But given that it is a graphic biography, it does a really good job of trying to explain the theory for which he got the Nobel Prize in physics. Perhaps addition about his work on liquid helium and weak decay or the partron model would have been an added bonus for physics buffs. But this book is really a wonder, and is a perfect gift to any child who might be remotely interested in science.
Another fun aspect of this book is the absence of mathematics, which makes it a delight for the average person. This might be a turn off for the scientists, but is really what any laymen would want in a book that talks about science or scientists. Another really good aspect of this book is that it lists at the end many sources where the reader can go and look for more stuff. This is very necessary for someone who is new to the story of Feynman, as some parts of the book might not be clear without knowing some of the background or some of the jokes that Feynman played on. But overall, an unmissable book if you love science and the spirit of science. Three cheers from our side to the authors! And of course to Feynman!
Written by Jim Ottaviani
Illustrations by Leland Myrick
Publisher: First Second, New York