Today I was reminded by Brain Pickings that it's Richard Feynman's birthday. He passed away in 1988, and would have been 94 today. I recently became fascinated with Feynman while doing research on the Art of Explanation book. Feynman was a brilliant and colorful American Phycisist who played a major role in the Manhattan Project and later won a Nobel Prize. He was known as "The Great Explainer" due to his ability to help people understand and more importantly, be inspired by science and the world around them.
From reading about Feynman, his ability as an explainer was based on a couple of big factors. First, he was very passionate about his work and his enthusiasm was infectious. He desperately wanted people to see the world in new ways. Second, he had the rare ability to empathize with his audience and be able to present ideas and complex problems from a perspective that made them simple and useful. He found new ways to approach problems that were original, unique and above all, effective. The Brain Pickings article provides this quote:
When Feynman faces a problem, he’s unusually good at going back to being like a child, ignoring what everyone else thinks… He was so unstuck — if something didn’t work, he’d look at it another way.” ~ Marvin Minsky, MIT
I enjoyed reading a book about his life called "No Ordinary Genius - The Illustrated Richard Feynman" by Christopher Sykes. This book has been adapted into a film that is now available on YouTube. I've embedded it below: