Wheeler, John Archibald

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Wheeler, John Archibald,

1911–2008, American physicist and educator, b. Jacksonville, Fla. Educated at Johns Hopkins (Ph.D., 1933), he joined the faculty at Princeton in 1938, and after 1976 was director of the Center for Theoretical Physics at the Univ. of Texas until he retired (1986). In the 1930s, Wheeler worked with Danish physicist Niels BohrBohr, Niels Henrik David
, 1885–1962, Danish physicist, one of the foremost scientists of modern physics. He studied at the Univ. of Copenhagen (Ph.D. 1911) and carried on research on the structure of the atom at Cambridge under Sir James J.
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; they were the first to explain nuclear fission in terms of quantum physics. Wheeler went on to work on the U.S. atomic and hydrogen bomb projects, and joined with B. K. Harrison and M. Wakano to develop the equation of state for cold, dead matter and a complete catalog of cold, dead stars, firming up the evidence for black holesblack hole,
in astronomy, celestial object of such extremely intense gravity that it attracts everything near it and in some instances prevents everything, including light, from escaping.
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 (a term coined by Wheeler). A charismatic teacher, Wheeler mentored many distinguished physicists, most notably Richard FeynmanFeynman, Richard Phillips
, 1918–88, American physicist, b. New York City, B.S. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1939, Ph.D. Princeton, 1942. From 1942 to 1945 he worked on the development of the atomic bomb.
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See his autobiography, Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics (1998).