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217 Inspiring Quotes by Richard P. Feynman

  • Last updated Jul 27 2021

Welcome to our collection of quotes by Richard P. Feynman.

Wikipedia Summary for Richard P. Feynman

Richard Phillips Feynman (May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) was an American theoretical physicist, known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as his work in particle physics for which he proposed the parton model. For contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 jointly with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichirō Tomonaga.

Feynman developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical expressions describing the behavior of subatomic particles, which later became known as Feynman diagrams. During his lifetime, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world. In a 1999 poll of 130 leading physicists worldwide by the British journal Physics World, he was ranked the seventh greatest physicist of all time.

He assisted in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II and became known to a wide public in the 1980s as a member of the Rogers Commission, the panel that investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Along with his work in theoretical physics, Feynman has been credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing and introducing the concept of nanotechnology. He held the Richard C. Tolman professorship in theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology.

Feynman was a keen popularizer of physics through both books and lectures, including a 1959 talk on top-down nanotechnology called There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom and the three-volume publication of his undergraduate lectures, The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Feynman also became known through his semi-autobiographical books Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think?, and books written about him such as Tuva or Bust! by Ralph Leighton and the biography Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick.

bird on pier

Einstein was a giant. His head was in the clouds, but his feet were on the ground. But those of us who are not that tall have to choose!

--Richard P. Feynman

white sand under white sky

No problem is too small or too trivial if we can really do something about it.

--Richard P. Feynman

None

By honest I don't mean that you only tell what's true. But you make clear the entire situation. You make clear all the information that is required for somebody else who is intelligent to make up their mind.

--Richard P. Feynman

green leafed trees

The imagination of nature is far, far greater than the imagination of man.

--Richard P. Feynman

milky way wallpaper

If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives.

--Richard P. Feynman

blue and white abstract painting

My father left me his words. From them I remember both his outlook on life and his voice, positive, and clear. He was someone who didn't worry about small problems. His advice here--leave it; let it go-- is inspiring.

--Richard P. Feynman

bonfire in forest

Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.

--Richard P. Feynman


leafless tree on snow covered ground

The game I play is a very interesting one. It's imagination, in a tight straightjacket.

--Richard P. Feynman

Longer Version:

The game I play is a very interesting one. It's imagination in a straightjacket, which is this: that it has to agree with the known laws of physics. ... It requires imagination to think of what's possible, and then it requires an analysis back, checking to see whether it fits, whether its allowed, according to what's known, okay?


brown and white humming bird

The internal machinery of life, the chemistry of the parts, is something beautiful. And it turns out that all life is interconnected with all other life.

--Richard P. Feynman

black dragonfly perched on green grass in close up photography during daytime

I couldn't claim that I was smarter than sixty-five other guys -- but the average of sixty-five other guys, certainly!

--Richard P. Feynman

man riding horse

The road to hell is paved with leeks and potatoes.

--Richard P. Feynman

A view of the night showing stars

Energy is a very subtle concept. It is very, very difficult to get right.

--Richard P. Feynman

None

It is necessary to look at the results of observation objectively, because you, the experimenter, might like one result better than another.

--Richard P. Feynman


yellow green leaf

It's amazing how many people even today use a computer to do something you can do with a pencil and paper in less time.

--Richard P. Feynman



gray concrete painted wall

Today we say that the law of relativity is supposed to be true at all energies, but someday somebody may come along and say how stupid we were.

--Richard P. Feynman


leafless tree under gray sky

Once we were driving in the midwest and we pulled into a McDonald's. Someone came up to me and asked me why I have Feynman diagrams all over my van. I replied, "Because I am Feynman!" The young man went, "Ahhhhh!

--Richard P. Feynman


yellow and white abstract painting

Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty -- some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain.

--Richard P. Feynman


selective focus photography of grey coin operated telescope

What I can't create I don't understand.

--Richard P. Feynman

blue and white abstract painting

When I would hear the rabbi tell about some miracle such as a bush whose leaves were shaking but there wasn't any wind, I would try to fit the miracle into the real world and explain it in terms of natural phenomena.

--Richard P. Feynman

Longer Version:

A poet once said, "The whole universe is in a glass of wine." We will probably never know in what sense he meant that, for poets do not write to be understood... How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts - physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on - remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let it give us one more final pleasure: drink it and forget it all!


toddlers standing outdoors

The fundamental principle of science, the definition almost, is this: the sole test of the validity of any idea is experiment.

--Richard P. Feynman

white and black satellite dish on brown field during night time

The "paradox" is only a conflict between reality and your feeling of what reality "ought to be.

--Richard P. Feynman

pink-petaled rose flower

Science is the organized skepticism in the reliability of expert opinion.

--Richard P. Feynman

snow covered mountain under blue sky during daytime

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

--Richard P. Feynman

None

Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry.

--Richard P. Feynman

silhouette of kneeling man

Since then I never pay attention to anything by "experts." I calculate everything myself.

--Richard P. Feynman

photo of about to bloom lotus flower

Teach principles not formulas.

--Richard P. Feynman




rock formation under starry skies

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.

--Richard P. Feynman


yellow, black, green, and orange digital wallpaper

Know your place in the world and evaluate yourself fairly, not in terms of the naïve ideals of your own youth, nor in terms of what you erroneously imagine your teacher's ideals are.

--Richard P. Feynman







brown and gray brick wall

So this piece of dirt waits four and a half billion years and evolves and changes, and now a strange creature stands here with instruments and talks to the strange creatures in the audience. What a wonderful world!

--Richard P. Feynman

Longer Version:

When a scientist doesn't know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty - some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.


silhouette photography of person

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

--Richard P. Feynman



grassland landscape

Gravitation is, so far, not understandable in terms of other phenomena.

--Richard P. Feynman

man with LED headlight looking upward

Physics is to mathematics what sex is to masturbation.

--Richard P. Feynman

white shore under sunny sky

Because atomic behavior is so unlike ordinary experience, it is very difficult to get used to, and it appears peculiar and mysterious to everyone -- both to the novice and to the experienced physicist.

--Richard P. Feynman


landscape photography of mountain

What did you ASK at school today?

--Richard P. Feynman

pink petaled flowers under trees at daytime

I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.

--Richard P. Feynman

man in white shirt and black pants standing on top of building

I, a universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.

--Richard P. Feynman








white and blue floral textile

Never confuse education with intelligence, you can have a PhD and still be an idiot.

--Richard P. Feynman

person holding sunflower

Nature...cannot be fooled!

--Richard P. Feynman


man and woman kissing

No man is rich who is unsatisfied, but who wants nothing possess his heart's desire.

--Richard P. Feynman


person standing on top of mountain

If all of mathematics disappeared, physics would be set back by exactly one week.

--Richard P. Feynman

man in gray sweater carrying woman in black jacket

Today's brains are yesterday's mashed potatoes.

--Richard P. Feynman

shallow depth of field photography of sunflower

What do you care what other people think?

--Richard P. Feynman



black bird flying on white background

The only way to deep happiness is to do something you love to the best of your ability.

--Richard P. Feynman


star sequins on white platform

The most important thing I found out from my father is that if you asked any question and pursued it deeply enough, then at the end there was a glorious discovery of a general and beautiful kind.

--Richard P. Feynman

silhouette of trees during sunset

I don't understand what it's all about or what's worth what, but if the people in the Swedish Academy decide that x, y or z wins the Nobel Prize, then so be it.

--Richard P. Feynman

mountain summit during sunset

Nature has a great simplicity and therefore a great beauty.

--Richard P. Feynman



milky way galaxy

I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell. Possibly. It doesn't frighten me.

--Richard P. Feynman



gray wooden house on green plains near mountain range at daytime

Once I get on a puzzle, I can't get off.

--Richard P. Feynman



silhouette of people riding bicycle

Perhaps one day we will have machines that can cope with approximate task descriptions, but in the meantime, we have to be very prissy about how we tell computers to do things.

--Richard P. Feynman

calm ocean

Because the theory of quantum mechanics could explain all of chemistry and the various properties of substances, it was a tremendous success. But still there was the problem of the interaction of light and matter.

--Richard P. Feynman

water on seashore

Some things that satisfy the rules of algebra can be interesting to mathematicians even though they don't always represent a real situation.

--Richard P. Feynman

body of water surrounded with plants under cloudy sky

Agnostic for me would be trying to weasel out and sound a little nicer than I am about this.

--Richard P. Feynman


silhouette photo of trees during night time

We've learned from experience that the truth will out.

--Richard P. Feynman

Longer Version:

We've learned from experience that the truth will out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature's phenomena will agree or they'll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven't tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it's this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in Cargo Cult Science.



tree frog

So far as we know, all the fundamental laws of physics, like Newton's equations, are reversible.

--Richard P. Feynman


black and white giraffe on brown grass field

Often one postulates that a priori, all states are equally probable. This is not true in the world as we see it. This world is not correctly described by the physics which assumes this postulate.

--Richard P. Feynman

blue and white abstract painting

Before I was born, my father told my mother, 'If it's a boy, he's going to be a scientist.'

--Richard P. Feynman



None

There is nothing that living things do that cannot be understood from the point of view that they are made of atoms acting according to the laws of physics.

--Richard P. Feynman


brown sands

It is the fact that the electrons cannot all get on top of each other that makes tables and everything else solid.

--Richard P. Feynman

raging waves through shores

Scientific knowledge is an enabling power to do either good or bad -- but it does not carry instructions on how to use it.

--Richard P. Feynman

fawn pug on bed

Experiment is the sole judge of the validity of any idea.

--Richard P. Feynman

forest and body of water

If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn't have been worth the Nobel Prize.

--Richard P. Feynman


houses and trees during nighttime

If you don't like it, go somewhere else, to another universe where the rules are simpler.

--Richard P. Feynman




stars in the sky during night time

The test of all knowledge is experiment.

--Richard P. Feynman

Longer Version:

The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific truth.


orange leaves tree

The extreme weakness of quantum gravitational effects now poses some philosophical problems; maybe nature is trying to tell us something new here: maybe we should not try to quantize gravity.

--Richard P. Feynman

elephants on green grass field during daytime

A very great deal more truth can become known than can be proven.

--Richard P. Feynman


rainbow desert

Agnostic for me would be trying to weasel out and sound a little nicer than I am about this.

--Richard P. Feynman



person in black shoes standing on gray concrete floor

Light is something like raindrops each little lump of light is called a photon and if the light is all one color, all the "raindrops" are the same.

--Richard P. Feynman

woman wearing black top standing near yellow wall

If there is something very slightly wrong in our definition of the theories, then the full mathematical rigor may convert these errors into ridiculous conclusions.

--Richard P. Feynman

photography of lake near tree

Physics is not the most important thing. Love is.

--Richard P. Feynman

white sand under white sky

Until I began to learn to draw, I was never much interested in looking at art.

--Richard P. Feynman

green and white painted wall

We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.

--Richard P. Feynman


three clear glass cups

The present situation in physics is as if we know chess, but we don't know one or two rules.

--Richard P. Feynman


silhouette of flower during sunset

One cannot understand... the universality of laws of nature, the relationship of things, without an understanding of mathematics. There is no other way to do it.

--Richard P. Feynman

brown and gray mountains during daytime

Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.

--Richard P. Feynman

clear drinking glass with beer on black table

The exception tests the rule.

--Richard P. Feynman

Arizona landscape rocks

I can live with doubt and uncertainty. I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong.

--Richard P. Feynman

Longer Version:

I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain … In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.



Arizona landscape

There is no harm in doubt and skepticism, for it is through these that new discoveries are made.

--Richard P. Feynman

white clouds and blue sky during daytime

Is science of any value? I think a power to do something is of value. Whether the result is a good thing or a bad thing depends on how it is used, but the power is a value.

--Richard P. Feynman


silhouette photography of trees and sky

I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there.

--Richard P. Feynman



rocky mountain under starry night

First figure out why you want the students to learn the subject and what you want them to know, and the method will result more or less by common sense.

--Richard P. Feynman


silhouette photography of person in gray sailing boat in the middle of body of water

All theoretical chemistry is really physics; and all theoretical chemists know it.

--Richard P. Feynman

woman in black shirt walking on sidewalk near brown concrete wall partition

The first amazing fact about gravitation is that the ratio of inertial mass to gravitational mass is constant wherever we have checked it. The second amazing thing about gravitation is how weak it is.

--Richard P. Feynman

black bird on brown tree branch during daytime

Science is uncertain.

--Richard P. Feynman

sunset highway

But there is nothing in biology yet found that indicates the inevitability of death.

--Richard P. Feynman




red flower in shallow focus lens

It has not yet become obvious to me that there's no real problem. I cannot define the real problem; therefore, I suspect there's no real problem, but I'm not sure there's no real problem.

--Richard P. Feynman

close up shot of white flower

If we want to solve a problem that we have never solved before, we must leave the door to the unknown ajar.

--Richard P. Feynman



bare tree on mountain during sunset

If it disagrees with experiment, it's wrong.

--Richard P. Feynman




woman carrying toddler on seashore

What I cannot create, I do not understand.

--Richard P. Feynman

silhouette photo of trees during night time

Don't pay attention to "authorities," think for yourself.

--Richard P. Feynman

man smiling while facing other person

What one fool can understand, another can.

--Richard P. Feynman

green lizard

No one really understands quantum mechanics.

--Richard P. Feynman

None

The universe is very large, and its boundaries are not known very well, but it is still possible to define some kind of a radius to be associated with it.

--Richard P. Feynman

clear wine glass with red wine

To decide upon the answer is not scientific. In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar ajar only.

--Richard P. Feynman

brown and gray brick wall

If you keep proving stuff that others have done, getting confidence, increasing the complexities of your solutions -- for the fun of it -- then one day you'll turn around and discover that nobody actually did that one!

--Richard P. Feynman

Longer Version:

If you keep proving stuff that others have done, getting confidence, increasing the complexities of your solutions - for the fun of it - then one day you'll turn around and discover that nobody actually did that one! And that's the way to become a computer scientist.


palm trees covered with fog

Observation, reason, and experiment make up what we call the scientific method.

--Richard P. Feynman


yellow and white color illustration

Nature isn't classical, dammit, and if you want to make a simulation of nature, you'd better make it quantum mechanical, and by golly it's a wonderful problem, because it doesn't look so easy.

--Richard P. Feynman

photo of pine trees

Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn't matter.

--Richard P. Feynman

Longer Version:

Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about, and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough. Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best. Don't think about what you want to be, but what you want to do. Keep up some kind of a minimum with other things so that society doesn't stop you from doing anything at all.



None

There is a computer disease that anybody who works with computers knows about. It's a very serious disease and it interferes completely with the work. The trouble with computers is that you 'play' with them!

--Richard P. Feynman


blue and white abstract painting

You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It's their mistake, not my failing.

--Richard P. Feynman





yellow green leaf

All the time you're saying to yourself, 'I could do that, but I won't,' -- which is just another way of saying that you can't.

--Richard P. Feynman

green and white bird on black wire during daytime

Tell your son to stop trying to fill your head with science -- for to fill your heart with love is enough!

--Richard P. Feynman

golden retriever inside car

Work as hard and as much as you want to on the things you like to do the best.

--Richard P. Feynman

photo of brown parquet

I learned from her that every woman is worried about her looks, no matter how beautiful she is.

--Richard P. Feynman

blue rose in close up photography

Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it.

--Richard P. Feynman

men running toward beach

We're always, by the way, in fundamental physics, always trying to investigate those things in which we don't understand the conclusions. After we've checked them enough, we're okay.

--Richard P. Feynman


None

There is always another way to say the same thing that doesn't look at all like the way you said it before. I don't know what the reason for this is. I think it is somehow a representation of the simplicity of nature.

--Richard P. Feynman


white boat on sea under white sky during daytime

From a long view of the history of mankind the most significant event of the nineteenth century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics.

--Richard P. Feynman

Longer Version:

From a long view of the history of mankind, seen from, say, ten thousand years from now, there can be little doubt that the most significant event of the 19th century will be judged as Maxwell's discovery of the laws of electrodynamics. The American Civil War will pale into provincial insignificance in comparison with this important scientific event of the same decade.


yellow flower field during sunset

Scientists are explorers. Philosophers are tourists.

--Richard P. Feynman






grassland landscape

Math may permit wildly different apparent starting points.

--Richard P. Feynman

woman in black tank top

Quantum mechanics describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And yet it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is -- absurd.

--Richard P. Feynman

white flowers

People often think I'm a faker, but I'm usually honest, in a certain way -- in such a way that often nobody believes me!

--Richard P. Feynman



brown and gray brick wall

Unless a thing can be defined by measurement, it has no place in a theory. And since an accurate value of the momentum of a localized particle cannot be defined by measurement it therefore has no place in the theory.

--Richard P. Feynman

brown butterfly perched on flower

You can't say A is made of B or vice versa. All mass is interaction.

--Richard P. Feynman

red strawberry fruit on red surface

We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress, we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt.

--Richard P. Feynman

woman standing on beachfront

I wanted very much to learn to draw, for a reason that I kept to myself: I wanted to convey an emotion I have about the beauty of the world.

--Richard P. Feynman












silhouette of people riding bicycle

Atoms are very special: they like certain particular partners, certain particular directions, and so on. It is the job of physics to analyze why each one wants what it wants.

--Richard P. Feynman



silhouette of mountain

The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion.

--Richard P. Feynman

full moon in the sky

You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things... It doesn't frighten me.

--Richard P. Feynman

fire near trees

I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring.

--Richard P. Feynman

gray concrete surface

Words can be meaningless. If they are used in such a way that no sharp conclusions can be drawn.

--Richard P. Feynman

We wish you a perfect day!