Richard Feynman’s Grave

Richard Feynman's Grave at Mountain View Cemetery (Photo:Tim Jones)
Richard Feynman’s Grave at Mountain View Cemetery (Photo:Tim Jones)

Today I paid my respects at the grave of physicist Richard Feynman, interred with his wife Gweneth at the Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California.  Feynman died of cancer in 1988 and his wife died the following year.

Richard Feynman's Grave (Photo:Tim Jones)

The grave is marked by a very simple plaque, which my wife and I would never have found without the help of the cemetery staff.  Even then, until we brushed it off, the plaque was barely visible among the leaves and twigs –  fallout from the Santa ana winds that have just ripped through the region.

Richard Feynman at Fermilab. Image in public domain and available via Wikicommons

Today was calm and sunny though, and the cemetery is a beautiful spot to find yourself.  Lots of trees with birds and squirrels running about, the whole overlooked by the San Gabriel Mountains and Mount Wilson (of 100 inch telescope fame).

Feynman researched and taught as Professor of Physics at the nearby California Institute of Technology in Pasadena from 1950 until his death.

Here are some more photos at the cemetery:

If you don’t know about Richard Feynman, I recommend in addition to his Wikipedia  page you check out the biographies Genius by James Gleick, and Quantum Man by Lawrence Krauss.  I also enjoy failing to completely understand (note the word order) Feynman’s 1979 Douglas Robb Memorial Lectures on Quantum Electro-dynamics (QED).

More recently, here’s physicist Leonard Susskind’s personal insight on the man in his January 2011 TED talk ‘My friend Richard Feynman’

and the BBC Horizon ‘No Ordinary Genius’:

4 thoughts on “Richard Feynman’s Grave”

  1. Good one, Tim. We were there in 2004 and had similar difficulty finding the location of the grave. Are you planning to drop in on the new Planetary Society HQ while you’re there?

  2. I was there in 1999. The cemetery staff at the time was uniformly unhelpful. None of them had any idea who Richard Feynman was. I was sufficiently upset, not to mention flabbergasted, to write to the cemetery management later and, of course, got zero feedback. But if the people there now know a thing or two, that is for the good. I found the grave by myself but it took at least 15 minutes and it wasn’t even covered by leaves. Before I went, I visited Helen Tuck at Caltech, who was the secretary for 27 years for both Feynman and Murray Gell-mann. She was perfect for that job, because she was unintimidatable but still diplomatic – quite remarkable around these two extraordinary intellects and egos.

    1. Hi Brant, sounds like you had a pretty good Feynman day, in spite of the delay finding him.

      The guys at the cemetery said something like “ah, we should know this guy shouldn’t we” – then checked the exact location on a database. So things have moved on a bit.

      I discovered after the event that Michelson, of Michelson-Morely Experiment fame is in the same cemetery. Maybe test them out on that one next visit !

  3. Hi Tim, I just now found your comment. Yeah, things may have improved a wee bit. Hope so. I was thinking later, though, that Feynman, given his disrespect for pomposity, may not have minded that nobody at the office knew a thing about him.

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