"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."
His father, Melville, wanted a boy who would become a scientist. His mother, Lucille, wanted her child to have a sense of humor. Both got their wish. Richard won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, and his quirky sense of humor would stay with him throughout his life and add to his legend.
Melville had emigrated from Minsk, Byelorussia in 1895 when he was five. In 1917, he married Lucille, whose parents had come from Poland. Shortly after Richard was born on May 11, 1918, his father bought him puzzles and arranged colored tiles in front of his highchair to intrigue him with the patterns. Richard did not begin talking till he was two, but made up for the slow start by repairing radios before he was ten and devouring the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover. Self-taught in so many fields, he learned elementary mathematics before he began school and he won the New York University Math Championship when he was a high school senior.
He was accepted at MIT in 1935, earning grades in mathematics and physics that were among the highest ever recorded. After early resistance because of a de facto Jewish Quota at Princeton, he was admitted in 1939 to pursue his Ph.D. After he received it in 1942, he was offered a job on the Manhattan Project. At first, he rejected the offer, but after only a few minutes he realized Hitler might get an Atomic bomb first, and he changed his mind.
At Los Alamos, he amazed his seniors, solving problems that had baffled them while also learning how to crack safes and pick locks, a talent he used to prove to the army just how poor their security really was. Never taking anything, he left notes taunting officials with his breach of their systems....