John Archibald Wheeler

Princeton University

July 9, 1911 - April 13, 2008

Scientific Discipline: Physics
Membership Type:
Member (elected 1952)

Physicist John Archibald Wheeler played a key role in the revival of general relativity. Most of his work was concerned with the theory of dispersion and absorption of radiation. He was granted a fellowship to the University of Copenhagen where he had the opportunity to work with Niels Bohr. Together they wrote a paper determining the mechanism for nuclear fission, which aided in outlining the methodology of containment for thermonuclear reactions used in the production of the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Later in his career he worked on mathematical extensions of general relativity, which included the theory of gravitational collapse and he is often accredited with coining the phrase “black hole”.

Wheeler earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1933. He went on to the University of Copenhagen where he participated in a fellowship with Bohr. Upon his return to the United States he became a professor at Princeton University. During World War II he served as a consultant to the DuPont Company during the Manhattan project and later worked on the Matterhorn project at the Los Alamos Scientific laboratory. He also worked for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission applying the knowledge and methodology he gained from the Manhattan and Matterhorn Projects. From 1976 to 1986 he served as the director of the Center for Theoretical Physics at the University of Texas.

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