PROPERTY FROM THE FAMILY OF RICHARD P. FEYNMAN
FEYNMAN'S OWN UNDERGRADUATE COPY — SIGNED AND ANNOTATED BY HIM — OF HIS IDOL'S MAGNUM OPUS — THE BOOK THAT WOULD INSPIRE HIM TO DO THE WORK FOR WHICH HE WOULD WIN THE 1965 NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSICS.
"'He is a second Dirac," Wigner said, 'only this time human.'" (Princeton physicist, & brother-in-law of Dirac, Referring to Feynman, in Genius, p. 184)
Dirac's masterpiece was first printed in 1930, when Feynman was only 12 years old, and the second, much improved edition published when he was 17. Knowing that Feynman had read the book for the first time before his sophomore year at MIT, "The Far Rockaway Sophomore announced that he had already learned quantum mechanics from a book by someone called Dirac." (Genius, p. 56), he would have then acquired this copy sometime between his senior year in high school (1935) and his freshman year.
"The beginning of the thing was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, when I was an undergraduate student reading about the known physics, learning slowly about all these things that people were worrying about, and realizing ultimately that the fundamental problem of the day was that the quantum theory of electricity and magnetism was not completely satisfactory. This I gathered from books like those of Heitler and Dirac. I was inspired by the remarks in these books; not by the parts in which everything was proved and demonstrated carefully and calculated, because I couldn’t understand those very well. At the young age what I could understand were the remarks about the fact that this doesn’t make any sense, and the last sentence of the book of Dirac I can still remember, 'It seems that some essentially new physical ideas are here needed.'" (Feynman, "The Development of the Space-Time View of Quantum Electrodynamics", Nobel Lecture, December 11, 1965.
Feynman's marginal notes give us a valuable glimpse into the infancy of his Nobel Prize winning work. Particularly striking is the simple note: "Analyze this some day" in reference to a section on the polarization of photons.
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