Oral history interview with John Archibald Wheeler, 1988 May 4 to November 28.


Wheeler, John Archibald, 1911-2008. Oral history interview with John Archibald Wheeler, 1988 May 4 to November 28.

Oral history interview with John Archibald Wheeler, 1988 May 4 to November 28.

First part of interview focusses on Wheeler's work and relationship with Niels Bohr at the Copenhagen Institute in the 1930s; discovery of the meson, Delbrück effect, and resonance capture of neutrons; how the Institute worked; character of James Franck; Margrethe Bohr; origins of the compound nucleus model; Wheeler's first encounter with Bohr; pair theory; gravitational theory; Wheeler's philosophy of physics; Bohr's philosophy, the "open world." Second session deals mainly with science policy and science advising in the United States and Europe after World War II. Vice-president of International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), 1951-1954; chairman of U.S. NATO subcommittee (Henry Jackson); work for establishment of the NATO Science Council; U.S. delegate to the NATO Parliamentarians, Paris 1957. Discussion of his concern about scientific manpower; postwar Europe (Holland, France) leads to awareness of need for a national defense research laboratory in U.S. (discussed here at great length using correspondence, reports and memos); "Project 137" summer study (Los Alamos) (Marvin Goldberger, Kenneth Watson, Keith Brueckner); JASON. Discussions of pre-World War II Europe, war work at Metallurgical Laboratory, University of Chicago with Eugene Wigner (DuPont); scientific work on acceleration of cosmic rays (Enrico Fermi; elementary particle physics) leads to Directorship of Cosmic Ray Laboratory at Princeton. University; work on general relativity; the Crunch, Geometrodynamics; the hydrogen bomb project; the J. Robert Oppenheimer affair. Much of the discussion is based on correspondence. The origins of JASON are discussed in session three; "Project 137;" importance and place of defense work in science; contacts between JASON members and policy-makers; impact of JASON on physics and national security policy; criticism during Vietnam War; Wheeler's affiliation with the Batelle Memorial Institute; establishment of the Joint Committee on the History of Theoretical Physics in the 20th Century (Thomas Kuhn). Also mentioned at length are: Hermann Bondi, Gregory Breit, Nicholas Christofilos, P.A.M. Dirac, Freeman Dyson, Otto Frisch, James Killian, Hilde Levi, Kenneth Mansfield, Oscar Morgenstern, Philip Morris, Donald Price, Ernest Rutherford, Marvin Stern, Edward Teller, Charles H. Townes, Oswald Veblen, and Herbert York.

Preliminary transcript.

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