Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman

Richard P. Feynman & Ralph Leighton

Adventures of a Curious Character

The book has many stories which are lighthearted in tone, such as his fascination with safe-cracking, studying various languages, participating with groups of people who share different interests (such as biology or philosophy), and ventures into art and samba music.

Other stories cover more serious material, including his work on the Manhattan Project (during which his first wife Arline Greenbaum died of tuberculosis) and his critique of the science education system in Brazil. The section “Monster Minds” describes his slightly nervous presentation of his graduate work on the Wheeler–Feynman absorber theory in front of Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, Henry Norris Russell, John von Neumann, and other major scientists of the time.

The anecdotes were edited from taped conversations that Feynman had with his close friend and drumming partner Ralph Leighton. Its surprise success led to a sequel, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, also taken from Leighton’s taped conversations. Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! became a national bestseller.

The book’s title is taken from a comment made by a woman at Princeton University after Feynman asked for both cream and lemon in his tea, not being familiar with the proper etiquette.,_Mr._Feynman!