Plenty of Room, Plenty of History
Vol. 4, Num. 12
Nature Nanotechnology (2009) 4:12, 783-4 Toumey looks back here at Richard Feynmans Plenty of Room at the Bottom paper, delivered half a century ago in 1959, and analyzes how it came to be the manifesto for the field of nanotechnology that would emerge over the ensuing decades. Feynman was the first to suggest altering elements on the atomic scale, using the idea of master-slave hands working with radioactive materials to posit a master-slave set of machines that could be made ever smaller, in the way that the slave hands are smaller than the master set, until molecular manipulation was possible. Toumey shows that Feynman did not receive immediate fame for his predictions in the paper, but it took twenty years for him to be taken seriously and more than thirty before he was looked upon as the father of nanotechnology, possibly because the field was not promising enough until 1991 or so to require a history. While nanotechnology has certainly not developed in exactly the way Feynman would have wanted, it is undeniable to Toumey that his is the underlying reasoning behind most of its successes.