A Caltech Library Service

Feynman as a colleague

Mead, Carver A. (1999) Feynman as a colleague. In: Feynman and computation : exploring the limits of computers. Perseus Books , Reading, MA, pp. 21-28. ISBN 0738200573.

[img] PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Feynman and I both arrived at Caltech in 1952 - he as a new professor of physics, and I as a freshman undergraduate. My passionate interest was electronics, and I avidly consumed any material I could find on the subject: courses, seminars, books, etc. As a consequence, I was dragged through several versions of standard electromagnetic theory: E and B, D and H, curls of curls, the whole nine yards. The only bright light in the subject was the vector potential, to which I was always attracted because, somehow, it made sense to me. It seemed a shame that the courses I attended didn't make more use of it. In my junior year, I took a course in mathematical physics from Feynman - what a treat. This man could think conceptually about physics, not just regurgitate dry formalism. After one quarter of Feynman, the class was spoiled for any other professor. But when we looked at the registration form for the next quarter, we found Feynman as teaching high-energy physics, instead of our course. Bad luck! When our first class met, however, here came Feynman. "So you're not teaching high-energy physics?" I asked. "No" he replied, "low-energy mathematics." Feynman liked the vector potential too; for him it was the link between electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. As he put it "In the general theory of quantum electrodynamics, one takes the vector and scalar potentials as fundamental quantities in a set of equations that replace the Maxwell equations." I learned enough about it from him to know that, some day, I wanted to do all of electromagnetic theory that way.

Item Type:Book Section
Additional Information:© 1999 Perseus Books.
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20150109-111939447
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:53475
Deposited On:09 Jan 2015 23:00
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 07:50

Repository Staff Only: item control page