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Nina Cataldo: "Who Stole the Door?" (From the section From Far Rockaway to MIT)

Current Site of the original Phi Beta Delta Fraternity

523 Newbury St.
Cambridge, MA

Entrance to MIT

9 Cambridge Ctr
Cambridge, MA

    In 1935, Feynman's intelligence allowed him to leave his hometown, Rockaway, and attend MIT at age 17. Since the Feynman family was Jewish, he was not accepted into any other fraternity except Phi Beta Delta, the only predominately Jewish fraternity at MIT. The Phi Beta Delta fraternity had almost collapsed the year before because of member disagreements regarding schoolwork and partying, but both arguing parties settled their dispute Feynman's freshman year. Because of this compromise, Feynman was exposed to the "social scene" at MIT. He attended numerous dances and even went on a couple dates. 
    Feynman became acquainted with the upperclassmen quickly. First, hazing was not ignored at MIT. Freshmen were often boarded to the floor by upperclassmen or expected to walk home after being dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Contrastingly, the upperclassmen were also an advantage for Feynman during his freshman year. Having two senior roommates was definitely helpful because he could advance his knowledge by studying with them. One evening, he even helped them with their theoretical physics homework by suggesting that they use Bernoulli's equation.
    While at MIT, Feynman became quite the joker in class and at the fraternity. When he was a junior, he noted in class that the French curve is made so that the lowest point on each curve has a horizontal tangent. His classmates were astounded. Each member of the class had already learned in Calculus class that the derivative of the minimum of any curve is zero. Feynman even states, "They didn't even know what they 'knew'." He also shares that people don't learn by understanding, and that they have fragile knowledge. The infamous narrative in this chapter involves Feynman hiding the door to a room where his fellow fraternity brothers enjoyed studying. No one believed Feynman had stolen the door until days after the incident had occurred. He ends this chapter by revealing, "People often think I'm a faker, but I'm usually honest, in a certain way-in such a way that often nobody believes me!"
     Although Feynman doesn't share any life lessons in this chapter, we do realize that he has matured socially and intellectually during his four years at MIT. He continues to grow because of his education at MIT in the remaining chapters of the book. MIT is the bridge between Feynman's life in Rockaway and his future.