Brain Pickings

The Last Journey of a Genius: Richard Feynman’s Quest to Visit the Remote Lost Land of Tuva


“I’m an explorer, okay? I get curious about everything, and I want to investigate all kinds of stuff.”

Richard Feynman — Nobel-winning physics icon, curiosity champion, graphic novel hero, no ordinary genius. In the last years of his life, Feynman — an explorer above all else — set out visit the remote lost land of Tannu Tuva, a satellite state of the former USSR. But Cold War bureaucracy got in the way and fate played a cruel joke — the day after Feynman died, a letter finally arrived from the Soviet government, authorizing him to travel to Tuva. The Last Journey of a Genius, originally aired in 1988 mere months after Feynman’s death, captures his dedicated and, in the process, delves into various aspects of Feynman’s character and life, including his conflicted relationship with the Nobel Prize, his problem-solving patterns, his passion for stamps and bongo drums, his philosophy on the heart of science, and a wealth more.

I’m an explorer, okay? I get curious about everything, and I want to investigate all kinds of stuff.

Feynman’s enthusiastic quest gave rise to the phrase “Tuva or Bust,” which later became the title of a book documenting his tireless efforts to reach Tuva.

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