Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: (Adventures of a Curious Character)

A series of anecdotes, such as are included in Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman, shouldn't by rights add up to an autobiography, but that's just one of the many pieces of received wisdom that Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman (1918-88) cheerfully ignores in this engagingly eccentric book. Fiercely independent (read the chapter entitled "Judging Books by Their Covers"), intolerant of stupidity even when it comes packaged as high intellectualism (check out "Is Electricity Fire?"), unafraid to offend (see "You Just Ask Them?"), Feynman informs by entertaining. It's possible to enjoy Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman, a bestseller ever since its initial publication in 1985, simply as a bunch of hilarious yarns with the author as know-it-all hero. At some point, however, attentive readers realise that underneath all the merriment simmers a running commentary on what constitutes authentic knowledge: learning by understanding, not by rote; refusal to give up on seemingly insoluble problems, and total disrespect for fancy ideas that have no grounding in the real world. Feynman himself had all these qualities in spades, and they come through with vigour and verve in his no-bull prose. No wonder his students - and readers around the world - adored him. - Wendy Smith (Amazon review)

"There are two types of genius. Ordinary geniuses do great things, but they leave you room to believe that you could do the same if only you worked hard enough. Then there are magicians, and you can have no idea how they do it. Feynman was a magician" - Hans Bethe, theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate

"A storyteller in the tradition of Mark Twain. He proves once again that it is possible to laugh out loud and scratch your head at the same time" - New York Times Book Review

"Quintessential Feynman - funny, brilliant, bawdy...enormously entertaining" New Yorker

"Buzzes with energy, anecdote and life. It almost makes you want to become a physicist" Science Digest


Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character is an edited collection of reminiscences by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. The book, released in 1985, covers a variety of instances in Feynman's life. Some are lighthearted in tone, such as his fascination with safe-cracking, studying various languages, participating with groups of people who share different interests (such as biology or philosophy), and ventures into art and samba music. Others cover more serious material, including his work on the Manhattan Project (during which his first wife Arline Greenbaum died of tuberculosis) and his critique of the science education system in Brazil. The section "Monster Minds" describes his slightly nervous presentation of his graduate work on the Wheeler–Feynman absorber theory in front of Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli and other major figures of the time.

The anecdotes were edited from taped conversations that Feynman had with his close friend and drumming partner Ralph Leighton. Its surprise success led to a sequel entitled What Do You Care What Other People Think?, also taken from Leighton's taped conversations. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! sold more than 500,000 copies. [citation needed]

The title derives from a woman's response at Princeton University when, after she asked the newly arrived Feynman if he wanted cream or lemon in his tea, he naïvely requested both. - Wikipedia


Other Books By Richard P. Feynman