Richard Feynman – “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character
Feynman was both a renowned physicist and a fun-loving eccentric. This collection of short biographical essays covers’ Feynman’s life and exploits from childhood to old age. He got his start tinkering with radios and electronics as a kid during the Depression, which led to a prank involving a homemade door alarm his parents did not appreciate. Feynman worked at Los Alamos early in his career, where he pranked colleagues by cracking open their office safes.
To make a point about security, he once broke into the nine safes containing all of the government’s top-secret Manhattan Project classified documents and scared the bejeezus out of a general.
Other highlights include faking his way into a prize-winning samba band as a percussionist while on sabbatical in Brazil, hosting an art exhibition and selling his own work after teaching himself to draw, and performing in a ballet orchestra despite no musical training.
Feynman also makes serious points about how to work both hard and smartly—he describes several mental shortcuts he used to do complicated math in his head, and other useful heuristics. To Feynman’s credit, he also treats his Nobel as an afterthought, thinking of it as almost a nuisance since everyone suddenly started taking him seriously. Many laureates have less humble views of their prizes.