For my Eminent project this year, I’ve decided to look at Richard Feynman, a theoretical physicist.
Feynman was born in 1918, in a town on the outskirts of New York City. He grew up with a passion for machines and studying the way the world worked, a passion reinforced by his father’s encouragement of curiosity. Some of his more notable achievements include working on the Manhattan Project (and pointing out said project’s security flaws in a humorous fashion), greatly advancing the fields of quantum and particle physics, and discovering the cause behind the spaceship Challenger‘s by putting a rubber ring in his glass of ice water.
I first learned about Feynman a few days after last year’s Night of the Notables, when my grandfather mentioned that if he did the project, he would choose Feynman. While that put Feynman on my radar, the thing that really drew me to him was one of his autobiographies, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!
The book contained stories from several points in his life. Some of the stories were more technical, others were more thoughtful, but all of them were a blast to read due to his entertaining storytelling. After reading the book, I knew that Feynman would be a candidate for my project.
When I went on the library trip, I was already pretty sure I’d be studying Feynman for the Eminent project. I owned 6 books on him, all of which I brought with me. I’d started to consider the idea of doing Leonardo Da Vinci instead a few days before the trip, who would also have been a great option. Unfortunately for me, all the books that I found on him focused on his artwork, and not on his inventions (the main reason I was drawn to him in the first place). While I do admire Da Vinci’s paintings, they don’t interest me as much as his inventions do. The lack of invention-focused books wasn’t a particularly encouraging development, to say the least, and it ended up sealing the deal for Feynman. However, I still think that Leonardo Da Vinci is an excellent Eminent person candidate, and deserves to be done again; the last and only time someone did Leonardo Da Vinci for Eminent was in 2009, which was 8 years ago.
Like Feynman, I think I’ll go into something involving physics, or at least STEM, at some point in my life. Not only are numerous job opportunities opening up in STEM-related areas, but I’ve been a science/math geek of sorts ever since I was five, and always felt it was a direction I’d inevitably end up taking, in one way or another. I don’t plan on becoming successful to the point of eminence, as that seems like a rather unrealistic goal. However, I do think that my study of Feynman will probably help me find ‘elegant solutions’ to perplexing problems, which I believe is a step in the path of eminence.
Feynman’s upbringing isn’t too different from my own. He was born and raised in the suburbs of a North American big city, in an upper middle class family. He also had a similar view on a religion: while he didn’t believe in a god, he did respect many of the core beliefs behind the scriptures. From what I’ve gathered, I think he also entertained the idea that the existence of a god was possible, though he still believed it to be highly unlikely.
Through this project, I hope to learn more about Feynman in general, but I especially want to learn about his modus operandi; his approach to problem-solving. I also want to learn how he manages to make complicated topics entertaining and relatively easy to understand. This knowledge could help me learn and present knowledge effectively, which would be beneficial in both school and normal life. I also hope to improve my Public Speaking skills through the Eminent Speech, which also happens to be one of my IEP goals.
I think Feynman will be a fun and interesting eminent person to study, and I hope my Eminent project does him justice.