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Joan Feynman

Astrophysicist Joan Feynman shaped our understanding of solar winds, auroras, and sunspots, and her battle to open scientific bastions to women transformed the field for those who followed. Although discouraged by her mother from pursuing science, Feynman was mentored by her brother, Nobel-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who regularly included her in his childhood experiments. Joan Feynman earned her doctorate in physics from Syracuse in 1958. She successfully lobbied the American Geophysical Union to stop meeting at venues that barred women and African-Americans, and pushed for women to present papers and chair sessions at national science conferences. While raising children, she moved from one research station to another, including the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, the National Science Foundation in Washington, and Boston College before taking a post at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena from 1985 until her retirement in 2003. An expert on solar radiation, Feynman created models to predict sun spot cycles and the amount of radiation that spacecraft will absorb over time (leading to better shielding), and discovered links between solar activity and climate change. NASA honored her with their Exceptional Achievement Medal in 2002.

1 Comment


Dear Joan,
    A voice truly from a previous time. I saw your name on AIP program and in a flash I was flooded by memories of you & Syracuse in the 50’s.
Richard, Chuck Willis, Mel Lax, Peter Bergmann, Joel Liebowitz……on and on.   Im feeling very nostalgious.

I was hoping to go to the OHIO meeting -  but a very handicapped wife now keeps me rather tied down.
So my best wishes to you  - have a great meeting  - keep well.

PS   -I would have loved to spend  a bit of time talking  with you.  Was that Glacier in your picture in Alaska???

Ted Newman



Joan Feynman
Full image
Joan Feynman.
Courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Date of Birth
March 31, 1927
Place of Birth
Far Rockaway, New York

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Joan Feynman." (Viewed on December 16, 2018) <>.


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