COLD CASE — Who smeared Richard Feynman? [FBI FILES]

“The author repeatedly invokes Eisenhower’s name in awe and respect, and offers to swear either on a Bible or to the President himself. The author talks of Feynman’s “long hatred of Republicans,” but knows that Feynman registered as a Republican in 1956 — which the author believes to have been part of a long-game deception to infiltrate the government. The author could be faking it, of course, but it doesn’t read like that to me.”

Alex Wellerstein — The Nuclear Secrecy Blog

In March 2012, the website MuckRock filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain and release Feynman’s full FBI file. Obviously, someone really did not like Feynman and told the FBI that he was a risk to the US National Security. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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In 1958, Feynman was being considered for a position on Eisenhower’s President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), a very high-level advisory board created in the wake of Sputnik.

A 9-page letter written directly to J. Edgar Hoover — dated August 8, 1958 —  is a very serious attack on Feynman’s character. The author argues that “Feynman is a master of deception, and that his greatest talent lies in intrigue, not physics”.

“I do not know—but I believe that Richard Feynman is either a Communist or very strongly pro-Communist—and as such as a very definite security risk.

This man is, in my opinion, an extremely complex and dangerous person, a very dangerous person to have in a position of public trust…

In matters of intrigue Richard Feynman is, I believe immensely clever—indeed a genius—and he is, I further believe, completely ruthless, unhampered by morals, ethics, or religion—and will stop at absolutely nothing to achieve his ends.”

So who smeared Feynman? Alex Wellerstein has suggested that it was his second wife, Mary Louise Bell, to whom he was married from 1952 until 1956.

“That’s not a long marriage, but it’s plenty of time to hear someone’s stories ad nauseam, and plenty of time to learn to hate someone.”

Wellerstein certainly did a good work and he makes a convincing case. But something still bothers me. I would not be surprised if Bell had been coached by a physicist who wanted to get rid of Feynman. Edward Teller comes to mind.

Feynman never became of the President’s Scientists, as D. Allan Bromley used to call them. The simple thought that such despicable letter may have played a role in that affair is really disturbing. Shame on the author. What a pity!

Hans Bethe: How I met Feynman at Los Alamos

I truly admire both Hans Bethe — who I met in Seattle in the early 90s — and Richard Feynman.

However, I think that Bethe is mistaken when he states that the Bethe – Feynman formula to estimate the efficiency of an atomic weapon is still classified. 

Moreover, this equation can be derived from elementary undergraduate physics.

Wikipedia also claims that the Bethe-Feynman equation is classified. In my series on the Los Alamos primer, I will thus take the time to explain how to obtain this formula.


Who smeared Richard Feynman? — Restricted Data


COLD CASE — Who smeared Richard Feynman?

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