John Archibald Wheeler

American theoretical physicist (1911–2008) / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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John Archibald Wheeler (July 9, 1911  April 13, 2008) was an American theoretical physicist. He was largely responsible for reviving interest in general relativity in the United States after World War II. Wheeler also worked with Niels Bohr to explain the basic principles of nuclear fission. Together with Gregory Breit, Wheeler developed the concept of the Breit–Wheeler process. He is best known for popularizing the term "black hole"[1] for objects with gravitational collapse already predicted during the early 20th century, for inventing the terms "quantum foam", "neutron moderator", "wormhole" and "it from bit",[2] and for hypothesizing the "one-electron universe". Stephen Hawking called Wheeler the "hero of the black hole story".[3]

Quick facts: John Archibald Wheeler, Born, Died, Alma ...
John Archibald Wheeler
Wheeler in 1985
Born(1911-07-09)July 9, 1911
DiedApril 13, 2008(2008-04-13) (aged 96)
Alma materJohns Hopkins University (PhD)
Known for
SpouseJanette Hegner
Scientific career
ThesisTheory of the dispersion and absorption of helium (1933)
Doctoral advisorKarl Herzfeld
Doctoral students

At 21, Wheeler earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University under the supervision of Karl Herzfeld. He studied under Breit and Bohr on a National Research Council fellowship. In 1939 he collaborated with Bohr on a series of papers using the liquid drop model to explain the mechanism of fission. During World War II, he worked with the Manhattan Project's Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago, where he helped design nuclear reactors, and then at the Hanford Site in Richland, Washington, where he helped DuPont build them. He returned to Princeton after the war but returned to government service to help design and build the hydrogen bomb in the early 1950s. He and Edward Teller were the main civilian proponents of thermonuclear weapons.[4]

For most of his career, Wheeler was a professor of physics at Princeton University, which he joined in 1938, remaining until 1976. At Princeton he supervised 46 PhD students, more than any other physics professor.

Wheeler left Princeton at the age of 65. He was appointed director of the Center for Theoretical Physics at the University of Texas at Austin in 1976 and remained in the position until 1986, when he retired and became a professor emeritus.

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