John Archibald Wheeler
, born 9 July, 1911, Jacksonville
He is undoubtedly one of the most influential physicists
of our age, whose tremendous depth and range of work shaped the future study of many topics in physics
. He will probably be remembered for two things however; his work on the atomic bomb
and his work on black holes
He became interested in science as a boy reading the scientific journals and his interest took him through his education at Baltimore City College through to receiving his doctrate
from Johns Hopkins University
in 1933. In 1938 he joined Princeton
, where he was the 'Joseph Henry
between 1966 and 1976, after which he left to join the University of Texas
where he was made Blumberg
professor in 1981.
His studies with Niels Bohr
in 1939 lead to a joint paper, "The Mechanism of Nuclear Fission
". This paper was responsible for uranium
-235 being used to develop the atomic bomb.
In 1968 he recieved recognition for his long work on nuclear fission and plutonium
production, and was awarded the Fermi
prize by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
. During 1969 to 1976 he was as a member of the U.S. General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament.
His work in the field of astrophysics
initially lead him to vigourously oppose the theory that stars
could undergo infinite
collapse. However he later switched camps, and became one of the biggest supporters of the theory, indeed it was him who coined the phrase 'Black Hole
' to describe such an object.
He also argued that the union of quantum mechanics
and general relativity
might be found be studying black holes; in fact some of his arguments seem to have anticipated Hawking radiation
"We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance.
As our island of knowledge
grows, so does the shore
of our ignorance