How Freeman Dyson saw Richard Feynman

A quite wonderful collection of letters from Freeman Dyson, some of which concern his ongoing professional and personal relationship with Richard Feynman.

The post offers excerpts. If you’re at all acquainted with Feynman, perhaps through his fascinating autobiography, then definitely click through and check out these excerpts from Dyson’s letters.

March 8, 1948

Yesterday I went for a long walk in the spring sunshine with Trudy Eyges and Richard Feynman. Feynman is the young American professor, half genius and half buffoon, who keeps all physicists and their children amused with his effervescent vitality. …

September 14, 1948,
17 Edwards Place, Princeton

My tremendous luck was to be the only person who had spent six months listening to Feynman expounding his new ideas at Cornell and then spent six weeks listening to Schwinger expounding his new ideas in Ann Arbor. They were both explaining the same experiments, which measure radiation interacting with atoms and electrons. But the two ways of explaining the experiments looked totally different, Feynman drawing little pictures and Schwinger writing down complicated equations. The flash of illumination on the Greyhound bus gave me the connection between the two explanations, allowing me to translate one into the other.

Freeman Dyson’s remarkable humility and pleasant nature comes through clearly; so does Feynman’s ebullience. I’m not very into physics, but maybe I will go on to pick up the collected letters, which have been published as Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters by Freeman Dyson.

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1 thought on “How Freeman Dyson saw Richard Feynman”

  1. hmmm… wonder if my husband would be interested as he is a no-longer-practicing physicist.(other things pay better.) Thanks for the tip!

    And hope your cruise is being wonderful.

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