Photo of Richard P. Feynman

Richard P. Feynman

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

In recognition of his essential contributions to the quantum theory of radiation and to his illumination of behavior of constituents of the atom, of the atomic nucleus, and of the subnuclear particles.

Trnheoretical physicist Richard Feynman wasn’t yet out of his mid-twenties when he was recruited in 1942 to join a top-secret collection of some of the United States’ greatest scientific minds. His work on the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb that ended World War II, was monumental.

Feynman’s work helped the scientists devise a formula to predict the energy yield of an atomic bomb.

His work to help end the war was among a career filled with notable achievements.

Feynman shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger for the trio’s work – unrelated – in remaking the theory of quantum electrodynamics. Feynman’s contribution was “Feynman Diagrams,’’ which represented the interactions between different particles and allowed the interaction probabilities to be calculated.

Born in Queens, New York, Feynman earned a doctorate in 1942 from Princeton University. He taught at Cornell University before heading west to take a post at the California Institute of Technology, where his lecture style made him a favorite of students.

Feynman also was a member of the presidential commission that in 1986 probed the cause of the space shuttle Challenger explosion.

By Robert Warren