Richard Feynman, Genius and Laureate

Richard Feynman, Genius and Laureate

Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Curator


Richard Feynman Messenger Lectures (1964)

In these Messenger Lectures on “The Character of Physical Law,” originally delivered at Cornell University and recorded by BBC Nov. 9-19, 1964, physicist Richard Feynman offers an overview of selected physical laws and gathers their common features into one broad principle of invariance. From 1945 to 1950, Feynman taught theoretical physics at Cornell. He went on to accept a professorship at Caltech and was named co-winner of the 1965 Nobel Prize in physics.

Feynman participated in the Manhattan Project and like Enrico Fermi, he was able to perform complicated calculations with ease. His first wife was a best friend of his sister. He loved to play games with his children. He taught briefly in Brazil and enjoyed Brazilian music before returning to US. He was offered the Enrico Fermi chair in Physics at the University of Chicago, but did not accept.  He also was on the Committee that investigated the space aircraft disaster and performed an experiment on the discussion table that explained the problem, to the dismay of some politicians. He had cancer at the time.

When he gave these amazing lectures, it was said that the many physics students left the room perplexed, and professors and graduate students filled the hall.

in physics.

One Response

  1. This is very insightful. There is no doubt that there is the bias you refer to. 42 years ago, when I was postdocing in biochemistry/enzymology before completing my residency in pathology, I knew that there were very influential mambers of the faculty, who also had large programs, and attracted exceptional students. My mentor, it was said (although he was a great writer), could draft a project on toilet paper and call the NIH. It can’t be true, but it was a time in our history preceding a great explosion. It is bizarre for me to read now about eNOS and iNOS, and about CaMKII-á, â, ã, ä – isoenzymes. They were overlooked during the search for the genome, so intermediary metabolism took a back seat. But the work on protein conformation, and on the mechanism of action of enzymes and ligand and coenzyme was just out there, and became more important with the research on signaling pathways. The work on the mechanism of pyridine nucleotide isoenzymes preceded the work by Burton Sobel on the MB isoenzyme in heart. The Vietnam War cut into the funding, and it has actually declined linearly since.

    A few years later, I was an Associate Professor at a new Medical School and I submitted a proposal that was reviewed by the Chairman of Pharmacology, who was a former Director of NSF. He thought it was good enough. I was a pathologist and it went to a Biochemistry Review Committee. It was approved, but not funded. The verdict was that I would not be able to carry out the studies needed, and they would have approached it differently. A thousand young investigators are out there now with similar letters. I was told that the Department Chairmen have to build up their faculty. It’s harder now than then. So I filed for and received 3 patents based on my work at the suggestion of my brother-in-law. When I took it to Boehringer-Mannheim, they were actually clueless.

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