May 11, 1918 -Â Theoretical physicist Richard Feynman is born in New York City. He shared a Nobel Prize in 1966 for his work in the development of quantum electrodynamics. Although raised Jewish, he resisted such ethnic identifications, believing that it “open[ed] the door to all kinds of nonsense on racial theory.” He identified as an atheist from his youth. Feynman was also well known for his amusing memoirs, including Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think? In later life, he served on the presidential commission on the space shuttle Challenger disaster. Feynman died in 1988, aged 69.
May 11,Â 2001 -Â English humorist Douglas Adams, best known for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which was both a radio and novel series), dies of a heart attack in Montecito, California, aged 49. He described himself as a “radical atheist” so as to leave no doubt that he was adamant in his disbelief. Adams introduced mutual friends Richard Dawkins (the evolutionary biologist and fellow atheist firebrand) and Lalla Ward (an actress on the popular Doctor Who television series), who married in 1992.