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Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman
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Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  9,653 ratings  ·  209 reviews
From the author of the national bestseller Chaos comes an outstanding biography of one of the most dazzling and flamboyant scientists of the 20th century that "not only paints a highly attractive portrait of Feynman but also . . . makes for a stimulating adventure in the annals of science" (The New York Times). 16 pages of photos.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Audio, 0 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Random House Audio (first published September 29th 1992)
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Robert Bryce
I recently finished reading Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, by James Gleick. I’m a big fan of Gleick’s. His book on Isaac Newton was brilliant. And in this bio of Feynman, who was one of the midwives of the atomic bomb, Gleick illustrates just how important Feynman’s thinking has been to our modern understanding of physics, and therefore, of energy. Feynman grappled with the big questions about matter, science, and the quest for human knowledge and understanding. One of my favor...more
William Herschel
This biography puts Feynman in a more balanced, neutral light for me. When reading his memoir(s) you only get a glimpse and rather slanted presentation if you are really wanting to learn about Richard Feynman.

This book is really heavy on his scientific endeavors, which shouldn't be surprising. Despite this the text is very readable and engaging, even for those less scientifically inclined.

In my review of Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman! I mentioned how much I thought I related to him. Well, if...more
Daniel
I learned about Feynman as a teen, when I happened across an interview with him on tv. His character and intellect fascinated me, and years later I decided to learn more about him.

Gleick covers Feynman's entire life in this biography. His prose is good, and he maintains a pleasing balance of anecdote and historical fact. Feynman had a large, vital personality, and Gleick is able to convey this without parroting the tone and content that Feynman uses in his autobiographical work. I've always been...more
Jeremy
Jun 12, 2008 Jeremy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, but especially if you have interest in science or physics
A book that really re-awakened my inner science and math geek. In addition it introduced me to Feynman. I'm sure his name came up back in classes I took, but there is so much here that you'd never get from a one-liner in a textbook. A very interesting character.

By funny happenstance, I read this right before reading Cosmic Banditos by Weisbecker. Cosmic coincidence?

-Jeremy
Michael
Big disappointment. Coming off of American Prometheus, the fantastic biography of Robert Oppenheimer, and having read a book or two of Gleick's earlier stuff, I was surprised that I couldn't even finish the damned thing. Tossed it into my donation pile a hundred pages in.
David Cerruti
Genius is up there with Gleick’s best work, Chaos and The Information, and clearly better than the disappointing Faster. There isn’t much new material here, and the Los Alamos days were only briefly covered. Feynman’s own writings, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think? , his Lectures on Physics, and his talk Los Alamos From Below (available on audio) give plenty of background.

The special thing Gleick gives is context. In particular, Feynman’s interact...more
Duke L
I went into this book idolizing Feynman. But I finished it thinking that he was an asshole who got excused for his behavior by possessing high intelligence. I used to think that Feynman was a fun, eccentric, bongo-playing scientist who wooed women. Now I know that he was one of the original douchebag Pick Up artists and gave no regard for the feelings of others.

He also wasn't a very good scientist. This revelation, not expressly said in the book, was a bit upsetting to me. He was an awful scient...more
Eva
Five stars if you like Feynman, four stars for everyone else :)

“Half genius and half buffoon,” Freeman Dyson, himself a rising prodigy, wrote his parents back in England. - 55


Some of them, though never Feynman, put their faith in Werner Heisenberg’s wistful dictum, “The equation knows best.” - 80


(when published, Schwinger’s work would violate the Physical Review’s guidelines limiting the sprawl of equations across the width of the page) - 92


“It was a unifying principle that would either explain...more
Irena
An excellent book about a unique man who can be called genius without any exaggeration. At first I was afraid the book will be not much more than a retelling of Feynman's own stories from "Surely You Are Joking, Mr Feynman" and "What Do You Care What Other People Think". But it is not so -- the book puts the stories into a historical and scientific context and also tells about events in Feynman's life he does not mention. Feynman's personal letters give a precious insight into his personality. T...more
Erik Johnson
I'd heard little pieces of information about Richard Feynman and I wanted to know the nitty gritty.

James Gleick has written the first biography I've been able to read without getting bored.

Starting with a look at the world Feynman grew up in, in Far Rockaway, NY, he weaves his writing in such a way it feels almost as if you are reading a work of fiction.

He details the exploits and high moments in Feynman's life (such as winning the Nobel prize) and the low points.

Fantastic read. I'm sure I will...more
Arjun Balaji
Fantastic bio of Feynman, and likely the best (in the same vein as Isaacson's takes on Einstein or Jobs) that we'll see.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in the nature of science during Feynman's rise — a period where quantum mechanics was very much developing and characters like Feynman were radically unorthodox.

Hearing Feynman's story is truly inspirational and makes you want to go out and discover things.
Motaz
This book is about one of the most, or probably, the most interesting scientific character the past century, Richard Feynman! A brilliant scientist who's made huge contribution to the theoretical physics field and most of the "hot" research areas in his lifetime.

Path integrals, Feynman diagrams, electroweak force .. And the lost goes on contains things that Professor Feynman is remember for.

A great love story by a young scientist risking his job, and his only source of income, to take the stor...more
Al Sevcik
The subtitle “The Life and Science of Richard Feynman” describes the book well. Feynman was an interesting person living at an interesting time. The first half of the book is largely concerned with his working, in the 1940’s, on the development of the first atomic bomb. The second half is less focused but it ends with Feynman establishing the cause of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Feynman died of cancer in 1988, possibly as a consequence of his work on the bomb. The book is prop...more
Tatiana
I thought this biography sucked. Though he may have had his facts exactly right, he missed the whole spirit of what made Feynman cool. I don't recommend it. I was very disappointed, too, because he did such a great job with the Chaos book.
Thorn
doesn't really add anything to "surely you're joking" and "what do you care what other people think?" that we couldn't live without. it was interesting, but most of the same information is available in more-engaging form elsewhere.
Matthias Thorn
This book is good if you already have an interest in Feynman. I read this as someone who'd heard of Feynman and wanted to learn more. This is probably not the best place to start for a look into the mind and life of the man who was Dick Feynman. I didn't hate the book, but there is a lot of science and math in this book. Gleick is pretty good at making a solid effort at putting the science of quantum chromodynamics (say) into language a layperson can understand, but there's only so much that can...more
Angela
Biographies have a way of losing steam once the subject becomes famous, but this one remained interesting all the way through, perhaps because Feynman himself took such pains not to let his fame alter him. This work is a good mixture of personal details and explanation of the different areas of science that Feynman researched. I especially enjoyed the section on his last major accomplishment - his work on the Challenger investigative committee. It revealed a lot about how NASA came to function a...more
Kev
Feynman is fascinating. Wonderful biography. Read it. The movie "Real Genius" is kind of an homage to Feynman. Kilmer's performance is Feynmanian!
Wilson Mui
A nice easy read of Feynman's life broken down into the places he lived, schooled, and taught. It's definitely a nice addendum to "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" and it reveals some of his inner workings and the love lost in his life.

However having started to read Robert Caro's 5-part LBJ biography, I can't help but feel the limitations on such a short piece of work, trying to sum up a man as complicated as Richard Feynman. I can sense the details glossed over and nuances missed, every chara...more
Christopher Bennett
might be the best biography I've read. equal parts awesome and educational/mind-expanding.
Robin
This was a great audio read. However I'm glad I read Klaus' "Quantum Man" first.
The first chapter of Gleick's "Genius" failed to draw me in, possibly due to the narrator, but my experience with "quantum man" gave me the will to keep going.
The rest of the book was most fascinating and made me realize that the, initially maligned, narrator was a good choice due to his capability of reading tech.
Gleick is no doubt better at writing up a theory than biography. However the blend of blend of 2 was a...more
Greg Brozeit
I doubt I've ever read a longer book. The text was only 440 pages, but I found that I re-read (and re-re and re-re-re-read) a number of sections because the physics described was very deep and complex, especially for a layperson. But I feel I have a better understanding of the significant advances in physics in the 20th century as seen through the lens of Feynmman's intellect, methods and, as the title so ably states, genius. Although I still don't have a deep knowledge of concepts like quantum...more
Brittany Bond
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Girish
Perspicuous and poignant story of the life of Richard Feynman. Gleick succeeds at revealing the missteps, the insecurities, and the face behind the visage that everyone knows. It's not too different from Feynman's image, but there are more pissed off people -- estranged grad students, lovers, and colleagues.

I particularly thought that the elucidations of "how science is done" were great: anecdotes about Feynman pursuing 50 different avenues with verve and vigor only to uncover one nugget of trut...more
Erhardt
I could read biographies like this all day long, everyday. And I certainly tried to do that with James Gleick's Genius. It's not just that it's written well and thoroughly researched with great details, anecdotes, and quotes. It's that the character at the center—Richard Feynman—is so compelling. As Gleick shows, Feynman worked hard to make himself into the iconoclastically interesting person he was. He held on to his roots as a bit of a bumpkin, growing up just beyond the edges of New York City...more
Douglas Hackney
Accessible, informative and entertaining look at an interesting life.

The physics analogies never venture beyond the reach of the layman and advanced math is avoided completely, making this a biography that anyone can read and enjoy.

The personality of Feynman is fully developed, warts and all, which makes him much more human, even with his formidable, off-the-scale intelligence. His foibles and failings make him seem more like us than different from us, and that keeps us reading. Reading to lea...more
BetteRose Ryan
Normally I find biographies dull, especially those of well known people. However, my brother gave me this book so, of course, I read it.
The book follows Feyman from the earliest times in his quest to understand physics to late in life. I found his time working on the atomic bomb quite interesting. Also of interest was the way Feyman "just knew" mathematical things. I suspect geniuses, knowing one or two myself, can just "see"connections between things while the rest of us are still trying to fig...more
Brackman1066
This was fascinating to read after I'd read most of Feynman's memoir / anecdotes and his published letters. It's not surprising that one learns things about him that he doesn't mention himself (for instance, his habit of sleeping with his colleague's wives). Nor was it much surprise that his essays are a dazzling act of self-creation--that's why I liked them. Still it was interesting to hear the views of Feynman of the other physicists, many of them famous, with whom he interacted. Feynman gave...more
Bob Nichols
Gleick does a good job picturing Feynman, the person, and it's a good antidote to the somewhat disappointing "Surely You're Joking" Feynman's autobiography. Gleick shows a man deadly serious about his work, with little tolerance for group think, pomp and pretension. He pronounced potpourri "pot por eye" and didn't seem to care. Feynman's passion for life is better portrayed by Gleick than by Feynman in his autobiography. There are surprisingly many videos on the internet of Feynman giving lectur...more
Rahul
I've always found Gleick's prose and diction to be engaging just by itself. He could make a discussion about trees or frogs as lively and interesting as the world of scientists. Not that trees and frogs are boring by themselves, but you know what I mean.

Coming to this book, well .... the praise it has received is not unfounded at all. This is a brilliantly told story of a full-blown wizard who was so obsessed with understanding the physical world that he often did not even bother to publish, say...more
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James Gleick (born August 1, 1954) is an American author, journalist, and biographer, whose books explore the cultural ramifications of science and technology. Three of these books have been Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalists, and they have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Born in New York City, USA, Gleick attended Harvard College, graduating in 1976 with a degree in...more
More about James Gleick...
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“Cloudy, cloudy is the stuff of stones,” wrote the poet Richard Wilbur, and even in the atomic era it was hard to see how the physicist’s swarming clouds of particles could give rise to the hard-edged world of everyday sight and touch.” 0 likes
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