The Personal Life of Richard Feynman: Separating the Man from the Scientist

In summary: Feynman...by...the...guy...in...the...video...has...any...weight?In summary, the guy in the video does not seem to have a very deep understanding of or respect for Richard Feynman. He does not seem to be particularly articulate or psychologically sophisticated, and his assessment of Feynman outside of physics is that he was "screwball." He is not someone to take very seriously.
  • #1
jobyts
227
64
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.
 
  • Like
Likes Auto-Didact
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #5
jobyts said:
At time 1:55, Charlie mentions Feynman used to sleep with wives of his undergraduate students.
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.
 
  • #6
zoobyshoe said:
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.

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
zoobyshoe said:
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.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-secret-sex-life-of-marie-curie-1586244.html
Here it mentions that it is mentioned in Feynman's biography:
He (Feynman) slept with many of his colleagues' wives, was a regular visitor to strip clubs, and on one occasion appears to have financed his mistress's illegal abortion.
 
  • #9
jobyts said:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-secret-sex-life-of-marie-curie-1586244.html
Here it mentions that it is mentioned in Feynman's biography:
Genius, James Glieck's recent masterly biography of Richard Feynman, revealed the world's greatest post-war theoretical physicist as a notorious philanderer. He slept with many of his colleagues' wives, was a regular visitor to strip clubs, and on one occasion appears to have financed his mistress's illegal abortion (although the details are inevitably murky).
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-secret-sex-life-of-marie-curie-1586244.html

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.

The statement you are making about him that he should not be taken seriously is definitely without any knowledge about him.
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.
 
  • #10
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.
 
  • #11
Does it matter if he did or not? Electrodynamics still seems to be pretty solid.
 
  • Like
Likes CynicusRex
  • #12
zoobyshoe said:
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.

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.
 
  • #13
He got physical; remaining true to his field.

But anyway, gossip inevitably distorts any notion of truth or nuance.
 
  • #14
Garrett King said:
Does it matter if he did or not? Electrodynamics still seems to be pretty solid.

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.
 
  • Like
Likes PhDeezNutz
  • #15
StatGuy2000 said:
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.

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

 
  • Like
Likes Astronuc
  • #16
StatGuy2000 said:
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.

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.
 
  • #17
I would say that the majority of men are interested in having sex with women, so Feynman is this respect is not exceptional.
 
  • #18
StatGuy2000 said:
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 don't think that has been brought into question, has it?

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.

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

-Dave K
 
  • #19
dkotschessaa said:
I don't think that has been brought into question, has it?

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.

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

-Dave K

I can see why that is the case, although for me I've long respected Feynman primarily because of his 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).
 
Last edited:

Related to The Personal Life of Richard Feynman: Separating the Man from the Scientist

1. Did Richard Feynman have a reputation as a womanizer?

Yes, Richard Feynman was known for his numerous romantic relationships and affairs with women throughout his life.

2. Was Feynman's behavior towards women considered inappropriate?

Some of Feynman's actions and comments towards women have been considered inappropriate by today's standards, such as his tendency to objectify and stereotype women.

3. Did Feynman's reputation as a womanizer affect his career as a scientist?

No, Feynman's reputation as a womanizer did not have any significant impact on his career as a scientist. He was highly respected and recognized for his contributions to physics and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1965.

4. Were there any consequences for Feynman's behavior towards women?

Feynman faced some consequences for his behavior towards women, such as being reprimanded by his colleagues and facing criticism from the scientific community. However, he continued to have a successful career and was not subject to any legal consequences.

5. What is the overall legacy of Richard Feynman as a womanizer?

The legacy of Richard Feynman as a womanizer remains controversial and has sparked ongoing discussions about the intersection of science and personal behavior. While his actions towards women have been criticized, he is still highly regarded for his contributions to physics and remains a prominent figure in the scientific community.

Similar threads

  • General Discussion
Replies
2
Views
1K
Replies
11
Views
3K
  • General Discussion
Replies
33
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
427
  • General Discussion
Replies
24
Views
1K
Replies
71
Views
41K
Replies
4
Views
4K
  • Quantum Physics
Replies
3
Views
1K
  • Quantum Interpretations and Foundations
Replies
2
Views
1K
  • Art, Music, History, and Linguistics
Replies
1
Views
1K
Back
Top