Some interesting factoids: Feynman and undergraduate teaching

… I immediately proposed this idea to Feynman in the following way: “Look, Dick, you have now spent forty years of your life seeking an understanding of the physical world. Here is an opportunity to put it all together and present it to a new generation of scientists. Why don’t you give the freshmen lectures next year?” He was not immediately enthusiastic, …

…he asked me, “Has there ever been a great physicist who has presented a course to freshmen?” I told him that I didn’t think that there ever had been. His response: “I’ll do it.”

… I presented with great enthusiasm my proposal — only to be dismayed by the cool response of Leighton. “That’s not a good idea. Feynman has never taught an undergraduate course. He wouldn’t know how to speak to freshmen, or what they could learn.” …

… I presented the idea to Bacher. He didn’t think much of it. He considered that Feynman was too important to the graduate program and could not be spared. Who would teach quantum electrodynamics? Who would be working with the theoretical graduate students? And besides, could he really bend down to the level of the freshmen? …

… I used the argument dear to academics: If Feynman really wants to do it, do you want to say that he should not? The decision was made.

All these are from the wonderful and must-read memoir of Mathew Sands, the only surviving member of Feynman, Leighton and Sands in Feynman’s tips on physics: a problem solving supplement to the Feynman lectures on Physics.

2 Responses to “Some interesting factoids: Feynman and undergraduate teaching”

  1. Michael Gottlieb Says:

    Hey there, Guru.

    Thanks for the plug!

    Mike Gottlieb
    Co-author, “Feynman’s Tips on Physics”
    Editor, “The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Definitive Edition”

  2. Guru Says:

    Dear Michael,

    The pleasure is mine; thanks for dropping by (and for the wonderful definitive editions and the supplement, of course).


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