Reviews; January 2000; Scientific American Magazine; by Raymo, Staff Editors; 3 Page(s)
When I was a graduate student studying physics at U.C.L.A. during the late 1950s, two godlike figures dominated our imaginations: Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann. Both physicists worked across town at Caltech, and now and then we'd slip over and sit in on a lecture. Feynman was the older of the two and better known, as much for his wry wit as for his stunning work on quantum electrodynamics. Who was smarter, Feynman or Gell-Mann? On the street, the choice was up for grabs.
Some folks are just a lot smarter than the rest of us, and Feynman and Gell-Mann were about as smart as you get. The very existence of such towering geniuses just down the road had a mixed effect on us students. Some were inspired to compete with the greats; others inclined toward melancholy. If nothing else, it was an exciting time to be entering an exciting field, and the two Caltech paragons were a big part of the excitement.