Feynman’s take on prizes/Feynman takes the prizes


“Photo by Tamiko Thiel 1984*

Richard Feynman was known as much (nay, definitely more) for his personality and his approach to science as a generalist than for his contributions to quantum electrodynamics. Feynman was infamous for his skepticism concerning awards, honors, prizes, and the like.

“Interviewer: Was it worth the Nobel Prize?”

“RF: I don’t know anything the Nobel Prize, I don’t understand what it’s all about or what’s worth what. If the people in the Swedish Academy of Sciences think x,y or z wins the Nobel prize, then so be it. . .”

“. . . I’ve already got the prize! The prize is the pleasure of finding the thing out, the kick in the discovery, the observation that other people use it, those are the real things. The honors are unreal to me. . .”

Putting a scientific career over science is a mistake leading a life toward common drudgery. The jolt of discoveries, be they great or unacknowledged outside one’s own mind and notebook, is the reward. Noble season should serve as a reminder, not a distraction, from the reality that there is a deeper meaning to the work of scientist than publish or perish.

Excerpt from BBC interview with Feynman, uploaded by youtube user batxg3

Congratulations go out to this year’s winners. May that the Prize fails to occlude the science you have yet to do.

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