Albert Hibbs

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Albert Roach "Al" Hibbs (October 19, 1924 – February 24, 2003) was a noted mathematician known worldwide as "the voice of JPL".


In 1947, Hibbs and Roy Walford took time off, from graduate school and medical school respectively, to go to Reno and Las Vegas to beat the casinos at roulette. Studying biases in the roulette wheels, they made profits variously estimated between $6,500[1] and $42,000.[2] According to Hibbs himself, during an episode of You Bet Your Life on which he was a contestant and won $250, he made "about $12,000" from his roulette exploits.[3]

Hibbs earned his Ph.D. in 1955 under Richard Feynman, with a dissertation titled "The Growth of Water Waves Due to the Action of the Wind".[4] He also transcribed and edited Feynman's lectures in quantum electrodynamics, and coauthored their book on path integrals and quantum mechanics.[5] He called upon his mentor at least once to provide recommendations to NASA for his selection as a science astronaut in the Apollo program.[6] In 1967, Hibbs was chosen to become an astronaut on the Apollo 25 moon mission, but the program was canceled before it would have been launched.[7]

In 1962, Hibbs began hosting a Saturday morning educational program on NBC television entitled Exploring. It mostly, but not exclusively, covered scientific topics, featuring segments with the Ritts puppets, cinematic short subjects, animated versions of famous legends, and music. It ran for several years, but received poor ratings, and was constantly shifted around the schedule.

Hibbs enjoyed making kinetic sculpture as a hobby and was fascinated by self-actuated machines—a field where he once again collaborated in a well known idea-experiment of Feynman's. According to Feynman, it was Hibbs who originally suggested to him (circa 1959) the idea of a medical use for Feynman's theoretical micromachines (see nanotechnology). Hibbs suggested that certain repair machines might one day be reduced in size to the point that it would, in theory, be possible to (as Feynman put it) "swallow the doctor".[8]

Hibbs died on February 24, 2003 at the age of 78 from complications following heart surgery.[7]

Asteroid 2441 Hibbs is named after him and his wife, Marka.[9]


  1. ^ "How to Win $6,500 - Two student theoreticians invent system for beating roulette wheel". Life Magazine. December 8, 1947. p. 46. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  2. ^ Maugh, Thomas H. II (May 1, 2004). "Roy Walford, 79; Eccentric UCLA Scientist Touted Food Restriction". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  3. ^ You Bet Your Life #58-18. January 22, 1959. Event occurs at 3:08.
  4. ^ "Albert Roach Hibbs". Mathematics Genealogy Project (North Dakota State University).
  5. ^ Feynman, R.P. and Hibbs, A.R. Quantum Mechanics and Path Integrals, McGraw Hill: 1965 (ISBN 0-07-020650-3), Dover Publications: 2010 (edition amended by Daniel F. Styer, ISBN 0-486-47722-3)
  6. ^ See letters in the "1966-1969" section of Richard Phillips Feynman (2005). Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track: The Letters of ... Basic Books. ISBN 0-7382-0636-9.
  7. ^ a b "Al Hibbs (1924–2003) : obituary". Caltech. Archived from the original on June 24, 2010.
  8. ^ Richard P. Feynman (December 1959). "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom". Archived from the original on February 11, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
  9. ^ (2441) Hibbs In: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer. 2003. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-29925-7_2442. ISBN 978-3-540-29925-7.

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