Wheeler, John Archibald, 1911-2008

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1911-07-09
Death 2008-04-13

Biographical notes:

John Archibald Wheeler is a physicist and a pioneer theorist on the existence of black holes. He studied under Herzfeld at Johns Hopkins University (Ph. D., 1933) and later studied nuclear fission with Niels Bohr.

From the description of Papers, [ca. 1950s-1970s]. (American Philosophical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 154298147

Physicist (atomic and nuclear theory, relativity theory, and cosmology). On the physics faculty at Princeton University from 1938; physicist, Manhattan Engineer District (1942-1945); and Director, Center for Theoretical Physics, University of Texas at Austin (1976-1988). Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Physical Society, and the National Academy of Sciences.

From the description of Addition to papers. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 84584800

Wheeler enlisted on 14 Aug. 1862 in the Minnesota Volunteers, 10th Regt., Co. F. From 1862 to 1864 the 10th Regt. partcipated in the war with the Dakota Indians.

From the description of Letter, 1863. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122486647

Physicist (atomic and nuclear theory, relativity theory, and cosmology). On the physics faculty at Princeton University from 1938; physicist, Manhattan Engineer District, 1942-1945; and Director, Center for Theoretical Physics, University of Texas at Austin, 1976-1988.

From the description of Oral history interview with John Archibald Wheeler. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82693690

From the description of Teaching notes from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a draft manuscript entitled "The Physics of Solids and Liquids: A Guide to the Study of the Condensed State of Matter," 1936-1937. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 80975859

Physicist (atomic and nuclear theory, relativity theory, and cosmology). On physics faculty at Princeton University from 1938; physicist, Manhattan Engineer District, 1942-1945; and Director, Center for Theoretical Physics, University of Texas at Austin, 1976-1988.

From the description of Letters to John A. Wheeler, 1977. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81639654

Dr. John Archibald Wheeler was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on July 9, 1911. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University in 1933 at the age of 21. He served as professor of physics at Princeton University from 1938 to 1976 before moving to the University of Texas at Austin where he served as the director of the Center for Theoretical Physics from 1976-1986. After leaving the University of Texas at Austin, Wheeler returned to Princeton as an emeritus professor.

Wheeler was a pioneer in particle physics and nuclear physics. He started collaborating with Neils Bohr in 1939 on some of the earliest work in nuclear fission and participated in the development of the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan project beginning in 1941. After the end of World War II, Wheeler continued to work for the government, interrupting his research to help develop the hydrogen bomb as part of the Matterhorn Project, promote the building of fallout shelters, and support the Vietnam War and missile defense. His later work in areas such as general relativity and gravitational collapse was groundbreaking, and he is widely credited with popularizing the term “black hole” in 1967. Wheeler received the Atomic Energy Commission’s Enrico Fermi Award from President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 and was awarded the Wolf Prize in physics in 1997.

Despite his fame in the field, Wheeler always gave high priority to teaching. He continued to teach freshman and sophomore physics classes throughout his teaching career and maintained an office at Princeton until 2006. Wheeler died on April 13, 2008.

From the guide to the Wheeler (John) Papers 2008-164., 1938-1987, (Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin)

Dr. John Archibald Wheeler was born in Florida in 1911. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University in 1933. He served as physics professor at Princeton University, 1938-1976, and at the University of Texas at Austin,1976-1986, where he served as the director of the Center for Theoretical

Physics. Wheeler returned to Princeton as an emeritus professor after leaving UT. Wheeler was a pioneer in particle physics and nuclear physics. He started collaborating with Neils Bohr in 1939 on some of the earliest work in nuclear fission and participated in the Manhattan project beginning in 1941. After World War II, Wheeler continued to work for the government, interrupting his research to help develop the hydrogen bomb as part of the Matterhorn Project, promote the building of fallout shelters, and support the Vietnam War and missile defense. His later work in areas such as general relativity and gravitational collapse was groundbreaking, and he is widely credited with popularizing the term black hole in 1967. Wheeler always gave high priority to teaching. He continued to teach freshman and sophomore physics classes throughout his career and maintained an office at Princeton until 2006. Wheeler died in 2008.

From the description of Wheeler (John) Papers, 1938-1987 (University of Texas Libraries). WorldCat record id: 232606652

John Archibald Wheeler, born in Jacksonville, Florida on 9 July 1911. A leading theoretical physicist, his primary interests included atomic and nuclear physics and the study of black holes. In 1939, he and Niels Bohr co-authored the paper that gave the basis for recognizing that Uranium 235 and Plutonium 239 would be found to be highly fissile.

Wheeler received his Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University in 1933. After graduation, he received a National Research Council fellowship to study at New York University and with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen. Returning to the U.S. in 1935, Wheeler became Assistant Professor of physics, later Associate Professor, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In 1938, Wheeler accepted a position as Assistant Professor at Princeton University, was his primary employer until 1976. He was a Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan (1939) and at the University of Chicago (1940). Beginning in 1942, he served as a consultant and physicist on several atomic energy projects. He worked for the University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory (1942-43), E.I. duPont deNemours & Co. in Delaware (1943-44), and Hanford Engineering Works in Washington state (1944-45). He returned to Princeton in 1945 as Assistant Professor of physics, becoming Professor of physics in 1947.

Wheeler received a Guggenheim fellowship (1949-1950) to visit Paris and Copenhagen. From 1950 to 1953, while based at Princeton, he was a consultant and physicist for Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. He was in charge of the Project Matterhorn group that did the conceptual analysis for the first hydrogen bomb and the Mike shot of 1 Nov. 1952, and created the design handbook for the first family of hydrogen bombs.

In 1966, Wheeler was named Joseph Henry Professor of Physics at Princeton, then Joseph Henry Professor Emeritus upon his retirement in 1976. His stints as a visiting professor during this time were numerous: the Lorentz Professor at the University of Leiden (1956), the Ritchie Lecturer in Edinburgh (1958), a Visiting Professor at the University of California Berkeley (1960), a Fulbright Professor in Kyoto (1962), Visiting Fellow of Clare College at Cambridge University (1964), at the University of Washington (1975), and Columbia University (1983).His career continued at the University of Texas at Austin where he became the Director of the Center for Theoretical Physics in 1976, Ashbel Smith Professor in 1979, and Jane and Roland Blumberg Professor in 1981. Wheeler retired from the University of Texas at Austin in 1986; in 1987, he returned to Hightstown and Princeton as emeritus professor.

Wheeler served as consultant or advisor to the following: the Atomic Energy Commission; Department of Defense, where he was Chairman of Project 137 in 1958, the forerunner of Project JASON; the Central Research Division of E.I. duPont de Nemours & Co.; the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy; to President Saxon of the University of California on the scientific work of the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories; the Southwest Research Institute (Board of Trustees, 1978); the United States General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament (1969-72 and 1974-77).

His memberships included election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1954), the American Mathematical Society, the American Philosophical Society where he served as vice president (1971-74), councilor (1963-66, 1976-79) and member of the Library Committee for more than twenty years. (He was largely responsible for the Society's involvement with the Joseph Henry Papers, a joint project with the Smithsonian.) Wheeler was a member of the American Physical Society (President 1966), the Danish Royal Academy of Sciences (Foreign member), the International Astronomical Union (1971), l'Academie Internationale de Philos. des Sciences, the New York Academy of Sciences (Honorary member), the Philosophical Society of Texas (1982), the Royal Society of Sciences at Uppsala, and the United States National Academy of Sciences (1952).

Among other affiliations were the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1971), Battelle Memorial Institute, the Southwest Research Institute (1978). He was also on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Mathematical Physics (1982-85).

Among the books he wrote are Geometrodynamics (1962); Gravitation Theory and Gravitational Collapse (1965) with B. Kent Harrison, Kip S. Thorne and Masami Wakano; Spacetime Physics (1966) with Edwin F. Taylor; Einstein's Vision (1968); Gravitation (1973) with Charles W. Misner and Kip S. Thorne; Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Cosmology (1974) with Martin Rees and Remo Ruffini; Frontiers of Time (1979); Quantum Theory and Measurement (1983) with Wojciech Zurek; Clues to Creation (1985); A Journey Into Gravity and Spacetime (1990); Spacetime Physics: Introduction to Special Relativity (1992); At Home in the Universe (1994); Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics (1998); Exploring Black Holes: Introduction to General Relativity (2000); Gravitation and Inertia (1995).

He received eighteen honorary degrees from the U.S. and abroad. These include Sc.D.s from Western Reserve University (1958), University of North Carolina (1959), University of Pennsylvania (1968), University of Middlebury (1969), Rutgers University (1969), Yeshiva University (1973), Yale University (1974), University of Maryland (1977), Gustavus Adolphus University (1981), Catholic University of America (1982), and University of Newcastle Upon Tyne (1983). He also received an honorary Ph.D from the University of Uppsala (1975), and an honorary LL.D. from Johns Hopkins University (1977).

Wheeler received the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize (1984), the Oersted Medal from the American Association of Physics Teachers (1983), the Niels Bohr International Gold Medal (1982), the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award from the University of Texas at Austin (1981), the Herzfeld Award (1975), the National Medal of Science (1971), the Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute (1969), the Enrico Fermi Award from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (1968), the Robertson Memorial Award from the National Academy of Sciences (1967), the Albert Einstein Prize from the Strauss Foundation (1965), and the A. Cressy Morrison Prize from the New York Academy of Sciences (1947).

John Archibald Wheeler married Janette Latourette Hegner on 10 June 1935. They had three children: Isabelle Letitia Ufford, James English Wheeler, Alison Lahnston Wheeler. On April 13, 2008, Wheeler died of pneumonia at the age of 96 in Hightstown, New Jersey.

From the guide to the John Archibald Wheeler Papers, 1880-2008, 1880-2008, (American Philosophical Society)



Biographical notes are generated from the bibliographic and archival source records supplied by data contributors.

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Subjects:

  • Physics education
  • Neutron resonance
  • Cosmic rays
  • Nuclear physics.
  • Quantum physics
  • Physics.
  • Dakota Indians--Wars, 1862-1865--Sources
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975
  • Gravitation
  • Physicists--Biography
  • Science--Government policy
  • Science--Study and teaching (Higher)
  • Compound nucleus
  • Science -- Societies, etc.
  • Spectrum analysis
  • Pair production
  • Physics
  • Solid state physics--Study and teaching
  • Relativity (Physics)
  • Relativity
  • Science--History
  • Particles (Nuclear physics)
  • Physicists--Vocational guidance
  • Physicists--Archival resources
  • Science -- Study and teaching (Higher)
  • Soldiers--Correspondence
  • Arms control
  • Science--Societies, etc.
  • Physicists--Longitudinal studies
  • Geometrodynamics
  • Electrodynamics
  • Nuclear fission
  • Elementary particles
  • Physics Education
  • S-matrix theory
  • Cosmology
  • Quantum electrodynamics
  • Hydrogen bomb
  • Mesons
  • Condensed matter
  • Atomic theory
  • Arms Control
  • Nuclear physics
  • Quantum theory
  • Doctor of philosophy degree--Longitudinal studies
  • National security
  • General relativity (Physics)
  • Quantum electrodynamics.

Occupations:

  • Physicists--Interviews.
  • Physicists.

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • Minnesota (as recorded)