Stephen Hsu has discussed a long interview with Richard Feynman (AIP).
Feynman's cognitive style (Information Processing blog)Because I pretty much share all the features that Hsu calls "Feynman's cognitive style" and because I find Hsu's comments fundamentally misguided, skewed, and unflattering, I decided it is important enough to respond.
Hsu starts as follows:
I have always felt that Feynman was cognitively a bit "lopsided" – much stronger mathematically than verbally. This might be partially responsible for his way of learning – it was often easier for him to invent his own solution than to read through someone else's lengthy paper. (Personality factors such as his independent streak, and his strong creativity, also play a role.) But this often left him with gaping holes in knowledge.Feynman had a habit of rediscovering all the insights and physics that he would rely upon in his research – and thinking about Nature in general. Incredibly enough, Stephen classifies this habit as "lopsidedness", borderline illiteracy, and a vice. Sorry, Steve, but you only represent the group think of average scholars who mostly parrot others and are doing okay with that, scholars whose work is derivative at best and whose confirmations can't really be viewed as independent ones because their writing is always a borderline plagiarism.
Feynman was a charming and articulate speaker who could formulate sentences clearly. He knew how to read, too. But the true reason why he preferred to rediscover things and avoid reading other people's papers is that it is a safer, scientifically cleaner way to collect knowledge. It is a way that not everyone can afford because many other people would simply be incapable of rediscovering all the physics (and Feynman was ultimately unable to rediscover things in physics above a certain level, e.g. string theory, too).
But the scientists who can do it in their actual work like that – and Feynman was an example – should do it.