Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist, Handwritten Mathematical Manuscript on Differential Equations & Signed Letter after Receiving Award, in Attractive Display!

Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist, Handwritten Mathematical Manuscript on Differential Equations & Signed Letter after Receiving Prize, in Attractive Display!

Two pieces documenting significant phases in the incredible scientific career of American physicist Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988); the first a double-sided manuscript in Feynman’s hand showing steps for approximating solutions to a differential equation; and the second a single-page typed letter signed as “Richard P. Feynman” on “California Institute of Technology” letterhead. The second item is attractively mounted in a cream-colored mat edged with gilt filet, overall mat size 17" x 13". Feynman’s notes date from the 1970s-80s, whereas the typed letter dates just after Feynman won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

The lot is comprised of:

1. 2pp manuscript, written on both sides of a cream paper sheet in bold red ink, entirely inscribed in Feynman’s hand. Isolated minor edge darkening and one slightly upturned corner, else very good to near fine. 5.75” x 8.25”. Ex-Richard Feynman Papers, Sotheby's. 

Feynman illustrates how a computer program can approximate a solution to a differential equation using Runge-Kutta methods. He also includes a sequence of computer commands. The Runge-Kutta methods, developed around 1900 by German mathematicians Carl Runge (1856-1927) and Martin Kutta (1867-1944), are a group of iterative methods that include the Euler Method to arrive at approximate solutions of ordinary differential equations. Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) was a Swiss mathematician and physicist who published his namesake method in a 1768 work; it is a numerical method to solve first order first degree differential equations with a given initial value and has often served as a basis for the construction of more complex methods.

On the first page of the manuscript, Feynman has also written “Janhke Emde”, a reference to German mathematician Eugene Jahnke (1863-1921) and German electrical engineer Fritz Emde (1873-1951), whose book on vector calculus, Tables of Functions with Formulas and Curves, was first published in German in 1909 and translated into English after World War II.

Prior to a small archive of Feynman’s papers hitting the market recently, only one single-page manuscript appeared in the auction rooms, selling for $15,000 at Sotheby’s in 2008.  At RR Auctions (Boston, Massachusetts) in 2018, a tiny signed sketch the size of a quarter sold for over $6,000! The most recent small group that arrived on the market fetched astounding prices, even up to $125,000 per page.  Here is an opportunity to acquire a genuine handwritten Feynman manuscript with stellar provenance at a reasonable price.

2. 1p typed letter signed as "Richard P. Feynman" at center. Written at Pasadena, California on February 9, 1966. On watermarked cream stationery with “California Institute of Technology / Pasadena / Norman Bridge Laboratory of Physics” letterhead. Expected light folds, else near fine. 6" x 8.5". Displayed to the left of an image showing the scientist seated in front of a chalkboard within a custom-designed mat measuring 17" x 13" overall.

Feynman wrote this thank you letter to a South African named “M. Shalit” in response to the latter’s congratulatory letter acknowledging Feynman’s receiving the Nobel Prize. In part: "Thank you very much for your kind letter of congratulations ..." Richard P. Feynman won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1965 "for his fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles."

Richard P. Feynman was born in New York City into a secular Lithuanian Jewish family. He received a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1939 and a doctorate in 1942 from Princeton University, where he studied under John Archibald Wheeler. In March 1943, Feynman joined the Manhattan Project in work on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico, where he was a group leader in the Theoretical Division. Feynman, together with nuclear physicist Hans Bethe, developed the Bethe-Feynman formula for calculating the yield of a fission bomb. Feynman immersed himself in the project and was present at the Trinity bomb test. After the war, Feynman joined the physics faculty at Cornell University. He first used his namesake “Feynman diagrams”, pictorial representations of the mathematical expressions describing the behavior of subatomic particles, at a 1948 conference. Initially rejected, Feynman diagrams ultimately revolutionized nearly every aspect of theoretical physics. As a formal language, Feynman diagrams are applied primarily to quantum field theory but can also be used in solid-state theory. Feynman joined the faculty at the California Institute of Technology in 1952, where he became a popular professor and advisor to dozens of graduate students. He also popularized physics through lectures, often published as books.  He shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga.

Feynman did much of his best work while at Caltech, including research in expanding the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, and particle theory. Feynman helped develop a functional integral formulation of quantum mechanics, in which every possible path from one state to the next is considered, the final path being a sum over the possibilities. He elaborated our understanding of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, which in turn elucidated the problem of superconductivity. Last, Feynman’s research in developing a model of weak decay, which showed that the current coupling in the process is a combination of vector and axial, contributed greatly to the field.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


Item: 65835

Price: $11,500.00
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Richard Feynman
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