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Richard Feynman a womanizer?

  1. Feb 23, 2017 #1
    Was listening to a Charlie Munger interview:

    At time 1:55, Charlie mentions Feynman used to sleep with wives of his undergraduate students.

    I never knew about this personal side of him.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2017 #2


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  4. Feb 23, 2017 #3
  5. Feb 23, 2017 #4
  6. Feb 23, 2017 #5
    He doesn't say Feynman used to sleep with the wives of his undergraduate students. He says he was known for "going after them." What does that mean? It could mean anything from being a little too obvious he liked them to outright indicating he wanted to sleep with them. A rumor like this could get started from something like Feynman running into a student and his wife, and spending most of the conversation talking to the wife instead of the student.

    The guy in the video doesn't sound particularly articulate or psychologically sophisticated. His assessment of Feynman outside physics is that he was "screwball." That's a pretty two dimensional and un-nuanced description. This is not a guy to take very seriously.
  7. Feb 23, 2017 #6
    Charlie Munger is 93 years and he is not as articulate as he used to be. He is considered as a legend in the investment world and for his personal wisdom. Ironically, his sophistication in the psychological approach to investment and worldly wisdom is more widely accepted than anyone else in the world. The statement you are making about him that he should not be taken seriously is definitely without any knowledge about him.

    The whole interview series in the youtube is people asking him investment or otherwise questions and all his answers were all short. (nowadays he gives only short talks/interviews due to his health/age.) Even though the answers are only in 1-2 statements, Charlie is not someone who makes a comment lightly.

    He is contemporary to Feynman, so his opinion may have more value in some aspects, than some of the blogs suggesting that those times the standards for morality were different.
  8. Feb 23, 2017 #7
  9. Feb 23, 2017 #8
    Here it mentions that it is mentioned in Feynman's biography:
  10. Feb 23, 2017 #9

    I read Genius a few years ago and don't remember it saying anything like this, except for the strip clubs. Feynman, himself, talks a lot about being a regular customer at one particular strip club, and friends with the owner. Eventually, the owner commissioned him to do a painting for the club. He also testified on behalf of the owner in some legal trouble he was in with the city, IIRC. That got Feynman into a bit of trouble with Cal-Tech because it got into the papers, something like: "Professor testifies on behalf of strip club."

    If it says he slept with colleague's wives in that book, I somehow completely missed it. You're going to have to give me a page number so I can read this claim by Gleick myself.

    He reduced Feynman to "screwball," and left it at that. Do you find that to demonstrate in-depth psychological insight? It sounds incredibly superficial to me. If by "screwball," he, as an investment expert, meant 'bad investment risk," then, given who he is, he should be listened to, but he doesn't specify he means it in that sense. This is not a commentator I would listen to to get a sense of Feynman the person.

    If I am going to believe Feynman was a philanderer, I'm going to need to hear it from a credible source. This guy is not the guy to quote in starting a thread like this. You should have tracked down the Gleick statements to the effect Feynman was sleeping around, if they actually exist.
  11. Feb 26, 2017 #10

    Fervent Freyja

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    I believe so. But, that isn't the same thing as being a sexist or misogynist. His behavior wasn't so abnormal and it doesn't mean he was a bad person. Some men have mommy issues and love women a little too much, in the wrong ways. I think it was the case here. He wasn't a man that hated women, nor does it seem he had contempt for them. Just too indiscriminate in who he chose to fill his needs is all.
  12. Feb 26, 2017 #11
    Does it matter if he did or not? Electrodynamics still seems to be pretty solid.
  13. Feb 27, 2017 #12

    George Jones

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    The statements are not in Gleick's biography "Genius", they are in physicist Lawrence Krauss' biography "Quantum Man". See pages 108-109 and 220-221 of the hardcover edition.
  14. Feb 28, 2017 #13


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    He got physical; remaining true to his field.

    But anyway, gossip inevitably distorts any notion of truth or nuance.
  15. Feb 28, 2017 #14


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    I agree with this statement. Whether Feynman was a "womanizer" (i.e. was sexually active with women outside of marriage) is frankly irrelevant in terms of his genuine accomplishments as a physicist.

    I have always felt that with respect to science, it is important to separate the particular scientist's accomplishments from the individual scientist's personal life or actions outside of his/her expertise.
  16. Feb 28, 2017 #15

    George Jones

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    I have always loved the Morse and Lewis series on ITV. Here, Morse and Lewis express similar thoughts on artists and athletes.

  17. Feb 28, 2017 #16
    Personal life could be interesting to some people. That's why there are biographies about famous people, and people buy them.

    No one is saying we need to mix the scientist's accomplishments with his personal life. This thread is not about his scientific accomplishments.
  18. Feb 28, 2017 #17
    I would say that the majority of men are interested in having sex with women, so Feynman is this respect is not exceptional.
  19. Mar 1, 2017 #18
    I don't think that has been brought into question, has it?

    Sure, but people have long respected Feynman for reasons not directly related to those accomplishments. It is natural to be somewhat disappointed.

    -Dave K
  20. Mar 1, 2017 #19


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    No it hasn't, but I was concerned that there might be a tendency to downplay or diminish the accomplishments of individuals, including scientists, due to questions being brought about the personal lives of said individuals.

    I can see why that is the case, although for me I've long respected Feynman primarily because of this accomplishments as a physicist. I'm also not particularly disappointed either, because it appears the worst that can be said of Feynman is that he had (allegedly) had affairs with the wives of his colleagues (which I agree is questionable to say the least in terms of judgement, although it's important to keep in mind that in consensual affairs, there is always two people involved) and that he tried to ask out undergraduate students (which is foolish, but not necessarily immoral, so long as it didn't go beyond this, IMHO).
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