Feynman's Letter To Deceased Wife Breaks Stereotype

Love story of Richard Feynman and Arline Greenbaum was covered in a book What do you care what other people think and a movie Infinity in 1996
richard feynman letter to dead wife physics science

It is said that men cannot express themselves well enough. Building upon this notion, often times TV shows tend to portray that male scientists [or as they say geeks] cannot convey feelings of love and usually get awkward in social situations.

However, there was one outspoken physicist by the name Richard Feynman who not only broke this stereotype but went beyond. Feynman was a great teacher, artist and lover.

Feynman's love for his wife knew no bounds. He wrote about it in a book titled What do you care what other people think? [a phrase his wife Arline taught him]. The book was later on adapted into a movie starring Matthew Broderick as Richard Feynman and Patricia Arquette as Arline Greenbaum in 1996.

Arline was struck by tuberculosis and was bed ridden for the latter part of her short lived life. Feynman used to commute from work to the hospital every day, a place which became their home in the last few years. He brought her presents and flowers and promised to stay by her side until her last breath. Feynman stood by his word.

When Arline passed away, every other thing reminded Feynman of the time he had spent with her. A cute dress by the window of a shop brought tears to his eyes, as Feynman imagined how his departed wife Arline would look in it.

Following is a letter that Feynman wrote 16 months after Arline had passed away. He just could not get over her for a really long time as this letter shows...

October 17, 1946


I adore you, sweetheart.

I know how much you like to hear that — but I don’t only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.

It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.

But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can’t I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the “idea-woman” and general instigator of all our wild adventures.


When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.

I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you.

I love my wife. My wife is dead.


PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don’t know your new address.


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