John Archibald Wheeler
John Archibald Wheeler
John Archibald Wheeler
John Archibald Wheeler in his youth.
John Archibald Wheeler
Rayen High School where John Archibald Wheeler did his studies.
3220 The Alameda, Baltimore, MD 21218, United States
John Archibald Wheeler graduated from the Baltimore City College high school in 1926.
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, United States
Johns Hopkins University where John Archibald Wheeler obtained a Doctor of Philosophy degree in theoretical physics in 1933.
Niels Bohr Institute, Blegdamsvej 17, 2100 København, United States
Niels Bohr Institute (then the Institute for Theoretical Physics ) where John Archibald Wheeler studied under Niels Bohr.
(A collaborative volume of B. K. Harrison, K. S. Thorne, M...)
A collaborative volume of B. K. Harrison, K. S. Thorne, Masami Wakano, and John Archibald Wheeler.
(Written by Edwin F. Taylor and John Archibald Wheeler, th...)
Written by Edwin F. Taylor and John Archibald Wheeler, the book can extend and enhance coverage of specialty relativity in the classroom.
(A collaborative volume of Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorn...)
A collaborative volume of Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne and John Archibald Wheeler, this is a landmark graduate-level textbook that presents Einstein’s general theory of relativity and offers a rigorous, full-year course on the physics of gravitation.
(The author looks at the history of gravitational theories...)
The author looks at the history of gravitational theories, discusses tides, planetary orbits, space-time, gravity waves, and black holes, and summarizes our current understanding of gravity.
(A concise, direct examination of general relativity and b...)
A concise, direct examination of general relativity and black holes, the collaborative volume provides tools that motivate readers to become active participants in carrying out their own investigations about curved spacetime near earth and black holes.
John Archibald Wheeler and his four younger siblings were raised in Youngstown, Ohio where John studied at the Rayen High School. From 1921 to 1922, he attended the local one-room school in Benson, Vermont.
In 1926, Wheeler graduated from the Baltimore City College high school and entered Johns Hopkins University as an undergraduate on a scholarship from the state of Maryland. Wheeler’s plans to major in electrical engineering changed after his first year. He then changed his major to theoretical physics, a field in which he earned his Ph.D. in 1933.
A postdoctoral fellowship which he received from the National Research Council that same year allowed him to continue his studies, first at New York University with Gregory Breit for a year, and then at the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen where he studied under Niels Bohr from 1934 to 1935.
The start of John Archibald Wheeler’s career can be counted from 1937 when he joined the staff of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an associate professor. A year later, he accepted an offer to be an assistant professor of physics at Princeton University.
Wheeler began to think about one of the questions that were to occupy his attention for many years, the structure of the atomic nucleus, while studying with Bohr. At the time, two models of the nucleus were popular, one which emphasized the properties of the nucleus as a whole and one that emphasized the properties of the nucleons (protons and neutrons) that make up the nucleus. More than a decade later, in 1953, Wheeler and a colleague, D. L. Hill, made one of the first and most successful attempts to combine these two models into a single theory, the “collective model” of the atomic nucleus. Wheeler, in collaboration with Bohr, also devised a theory explaining the process of nuclear fission, predicting the fissility of plutonium produced from the isotope uranium-238.
During World War II, the scientist took a leave of absence from Princeton to consult on various aspects of the Manhattan Project, working first at the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory, where the first atomic pile was constructed, from 1942 to 1943. A year later, he joined Washington state’s Hanford Engineer Works (later known as Hanford Site), where plutonium was manufactured, and served there for a year. Wheeler also worked during the 1940s with Feynman on the problem of action at a distance. From 1950 to 1953, he served at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, where the first atomic bombs were assembled and tested.
Throughout his career, Wheeler pursued some of the most difficult and most fundamental questions in all of physics. Some of his earlier research dealt with the search for a unified field theory, which would show how the fundamental forces of nature (the strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravitational ones) are related to each other. His 1962 book, ‘Geometrodynamics’ gathered his papers on this subject.
In 1939, J. Robert Oppenheimer described the theoretical effects of the curvature of space, when thermonuclear reactions cease to function in stars and gravitational forces cause their collapse. Wheeler carried out his own investigations into this phenomenon and, in 1967, coined the term “black hole.” Expanding upon this concept even further, he rationalized that the whole universe might be subject to what he called the Big Crunch. As the universe contracts upon itself to super-dense dimensions, it would cause an explosion similar to that of the big bang, creating a totally new universe.
As part of this research, Wheeler has developed the concept of “superspace,” a highly complex mathematical construct that may be all that remains of the universe after the Big Crunch. His ideas on the Big Crunch and superspace have continued to evolve over time, resulting in a better understanding of black holes and imaginative theoretical constructs such as "wormholes,” which deal with holes in space containing electrical forces.
The affiliation of Wheeler with Princeton University lasted until 1976. Wheeler took early retirement in order to accept an appointment at the University of Texas at Austin, as professor of physics and director of the Center for Theoretical Physics and then, in 1979, as Ashbel Smith Professor of Physics. He left the director's post in 1986.
(A concise, direct examination of general relativity and b...)2000
(The author looks at the history of gravitational theories...)1990
(The volume presents Wheeler's essays on the science and a...)1994
(A collection of essays in honor of Wheeler's sixtieth bir...)1972
(A collaborative volume of Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorn...)1973
(A collaborative volume of B. K. Harrison, K. S. Thorne, M...)1965
(Written by Edwin F. Taylor and John Archibald Wheeler, th...)1966
John Archibald Wheeler was a co-founder of the Unitarian Church of Princeton along with his wife Janette Hegner.
"Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, that when we grasp it – in a decade, a century, or a millennium – we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise? How could we have been so stupid?"
"If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day."
"In order to more fully understand this reality, we must take into account other dimensions of a broader reality."
"No phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon."
"Time is what keeps things from happening all at once."
"To hate is to study, to study is to understand, to understand is to appreciate, to appreciate is to love. So maybe I'll end up loving your theory."
"We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance."
"Space tells matter how to move; matter tells space how to curve."
"Of all heroes, Spinoza was Einstein's greatest. No one expressed more strongly than he a belief in the harmony, the beauty, and most of all the ultimate comprehensibility of nature."
"Of all obstacles to a thoroughly penetrating account of existence, none looms up more dismayingly than “time.” Explain time? Not without explaining existence. Explain existence? Not without explaining time. To uncover the deep and hidden connection between time and existence, to close on itself our quartet of questions, is a task for the future."
"There are many modes of thinking about the world around us and our place in it. I like to consider all the angles from which we might gain perspective on our amazing universe and the nature of existence."
"The question is – what is the question?"
John Wheeler maintained scientific affiliations with the government, serving as a member of the United States General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament (also known as the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency) from 1969 to 1976, science advisor to the United States Senate Delegation to the 1957 NATO Conference of Parliamentarians, project chairman of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1958, and consultant to the United States Atomic Energy Commission in 1958.
Wheeler was also a member of the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Academy, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, and the Century Association.
John Archibald Wheeler’s scrupulousness went together with the unconventional approach even to the most complex questions. He had three hallmark phrases, “it from bit,” “mass without mass”, and “Why the quantum?”
Quotes from others about the person
"Looking back on Wheeler's 10 years at Texas, many quantum information scientists now regard him, along with IBM's Rolf Landauer, as a grandfather of their field. That, however, was not because Wheeler produced seminal research papers on quantum information. He did not – with one major exception, his delayed-choice experiment. Rather, his role was to inspire by asking deep questions from a radical conservative viewpoint and, through his questions, to stimulate others' research and discovery." Charles Misner, Kip Thorne, and Wojciech Zurek
John Archibald Wheeler married a teacher and social worker Janette Hegner on June 10, 1935. They lived together till the death of Hegner in 2007.
The family produced three children named Letitia, James English, and Alison Wheeler.