Microsoft makes world renowned lectures freely available

Physicist Richard Feynman’s 1964 lectures now available online

July 16, 2009

Physicist Richard Feynman’s 1964 lectures now available online

Microsoft Research, in collaboration with Chairman Bill Gates, today launched a Web site that makes an acclaimed lecture series by the physicist Richard Feynman freely available to the general public.

The lectures, which Feynman originally delivered at Cornell University in 1964, have been hugely influential for many people, including Gates. Gates privately purchased the rights to the seven lectures in the series, called “The Character of Physical Law,” to make them widely available to the public for free with the hope that they will help get kids excited about physics and science.

The name “Tuva” was chosen because of Feynman’s lifelong fascination with the small Russian republic of Tuva, located in Asia.

Feynman was one of the most popular scientists of the 20th century. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 and was also known for his wide-ranging interests.

“No one was more adept at making science fun and interesting than Richard Feynman,” said Gates. “More than 20 years after first seeing them, these are still some of the best science lectures I’ve heard. Feynman worked hard during his life to popularize science, so I’m sure he’d be thrilled that now anyone, anywhere in the world, can just click a button and experience his lectures.”

Curtis Wong, a principal researcher with Microsoft Research, enhanced the experience of viewing the lectures by integrating the historic video with a Microsoft Silverlight-based video player that allows viewers to search the lectures for references to particular subjects, take notes that are synchronized to the video, and click on hyperlinks to related Web content, among other customized operations.

“There is a lot of public interest in building innovative educational resources online,” Wong said. “This is an opportunity to take some existing educational content and utilize software and the wealth of resources available on the Web to create a richer learning experience. And because people can annotate the lectures with their own comments and links to related resources, I expect this experience to become richer and richer over time.”