Without knowing much about him, I watched a BBC film about Richard Feynman called The Challenger. It told the story of how Feynman (played by William Hurt), helped to discover why the Challenger space shuttle disaster happened. Two years after the Rogers Commission Report was released, Feynman from kidney failure brought on by liposarcoma.
But how did he become such an admired and beloved teacher? Open Culture gave its thoughts on the man and his lessons:
If Richard Feynman had only ever published his work in theoretical physics, his name would still be known far and wide. As it is, Feynman remains famous more than thirty years after his death in large part for the way he engaged with the public.
His famous book, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, is free to read online, Bill Gates called him “the best teacher he never had”, and many of his lectures are available to watch online. In short, he made science accessible to anyone willing to learn and he was incredible at what he did (he won a Nobel Prize in 1965 jointly with Julian Schwinger and Shin’ichirō Tomonaga.)
But the essence of Richard Feynman was in his wonderment at discovery and not fearing the unknown:
I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things but I’m not absolutely sure of anything and the many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little but if I can’t figure it out, then I go into something else. But I don’t have to know an answer, I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things. By being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose which is the way it really is as far as I can tell possibly. It doesn’t frighten.
That, in itself, is a lesson we can and should all take with us as we try to navigate through this thing called life.