I do not normally celebrate celebrity birthdays and anniversaries, since the focus on this series of articles is on the principles of science and the laws of nature. However I do feel that today's anniversary warrants an exception to this general rule. It was one century ago today that Richard Feynman entered the world and would go on to change physics forever. 

Although never reaching the same level of popular recognition as Einstein or Newton or Hawking, in many ways Richard Feynman was greater than all of them. I know that there are many who will disagree with that assessment, and it is certainly contentious, but I believe it is also justifiable. It could be argued that Einstein and Newton were responsible for greater revolutions in science and mathematics, with Newton developing the first true laws of physics, laws of gravitation, and modern calculus and Einstein inventing the special and general theories of relativity along with proving the existence of atoms and giving the first experimental proof of quantum physics. And Hawking achieved success for his work on theorems of general relativity and black holes, and even greater success as an author and physics popularizer. However I would contend that Feynman's work on quantum field theory and path integrals is as important for particle physics and high energy physics as the theories of relativity is to gravitation and cosmology, while his now famous lectures on the state of physics in the 1960s are more significant as physics books than Hawking's works twenty years later. As a teacher Feynman supposedly surpassed all other great physicists, and was perhaps the only Nobel laureate to ever instruct introductory classes. 

And perhaps of even greater importance, unlike most great scientists Feynman remained an ordinary human being. He could create new methods of studying subatomic particles one day, and the next day be fascinated learning how to crack and safe or how to paint or how to play the bongo drums. He took great joy in talking to ordinary people and lecturing to non-technical audiences about the joys of physics and science. He pursued physics and mathematics not for bragging rights or fame and fortune, but simply for the pleasure of finding things out.

And he inspired generations of young people like me to enter into the amazing and fascinating world of modern physics. 

Happy Birthday Mr. Feynman!

NB: After posting this article a few people have contacted me regarding the use of the title "Mr" when a PhD level scientist is properly called "Dr.". This was a deliberate error on my part, as a subtle reference to Feynman's popular book on his own early life, "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman", and was certainly not meant to diminish his achievements in any way.