Richard Feynman – “Wise Man”

Freeman Dyson has a review, “Wise Man,” of a book that collects the letters of Richard Feynman … “Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of Richard P. Feynman” …

People who knew Feynman as a friend and colleague were astonished when this collection of his letters appeared. We never thought of him as a letter writer. He was famous as a great scientist and a great communicator, but his way of communicating with the public was by talking rather than writing. He talked in a racy and informal style, and claimed to be incapable of writing grammatical English. His many books were not written by him but transcribed and edited by others from recordings of his talks. The technical books were records of his classroom lectures, and the popular books were records of his stories. He preferred to publish his scientific discoveries in lectures rather than in papers.
This book now reveals that Feynman was, like that other great communicator Ronald Reagan, secretly writing personal letters to a great variety of people. Few of the letters are to his professional colleagues. Many of them are to his family, and many are to people he did not know and never met, answering letters that they wrote to him with questions about science.

Other Feynman books have portrayed him as a scientific wizard and as a storyteller. This collection of letters shows us for the first time the son caring for his father and mother, the father caring for his wife and children, the teacher caring for his students, the writer replying to people throughout the world who wrote to him about their problems and received his full and undivided attention.

via Kottke