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Short biography
Richard P. Feynman was born in New York City and grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens. His parents were both Jewish immigrants from Lithuania, but not religious. He shared an intense curiosity about how the natural world operated with his younger sister Joan, who grew up to become an astrophysicist. He showed exceptional talent in mathematics even as a child, and taught himself trigonometry, advanced algebra, analytic geometry, and both differential and integral calculus. After graduating from Far Rockaway High School, he earned a B.A. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he switched his major to physics. As an undergraduate, he published two papers in the Physical Review. He went on to graduate study at Princeton University, where he received a Ph.D. in 1942; his thesis advisor was John Archibald Wheeler, who later became a colleague. Immediately after receiving his degree, Feynman married Arline Greenbaum, his high school sweetheart, who was seriously ill with tuberculosis. He was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb in World War II, and he and Arline traveled to Los Alamos, New Mexico. She entered a hospital in Albuquerque, while he worked in the lab under Hans Bethe and visited her on weekends. A month before the war ended, Arline died. Feynman taught theoretical physics at Cornell University from 1945 to 1950, then joined the faculty of the California Institute of Technology, where he worked for the rest of his career, rising to become Richard Chace Tolman Professor of Theoretical Physics. He married Gweneth Howarth, with whom he had two children. The New York Times called him "arguably the most brilliant, iconoclastic and influential of the postwar generation of theoretical physicists." In 1965, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics jointly with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger for his work on quantum electrodynamics. In 1986, he captured the world's attention again as the key member of the Presidential commission investigating the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. He wrote many scholarly papers and several books, including Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher (1994) and The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist (1998). Many of his classroom lectures were collected and published -- these included The Feynman Lectures on Physics (1964-1966); The Character of Physical Law (1967); and QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985). His memoirs Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman (1985), and What Do You Care What Other People Think? (1988) written with Ralph Leighton, became bestsellers.
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