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Physicist John A. Wheeler Dies

April 15, 2008 01:56 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
John A. Wheeler, the physicist who invented the term “black hole,” died on April 13, 2008, at the age of 96.

30-Second Summary

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John Archibald Wheeler, the physicist who invented the term “black hole,” and who, along with several others, helped develop the atom bomb, died of pneumonia on Sunday, April 13, 2008, in Hightstown, New Jersey.

The son of two librarians born in Jacksonville, Fla., the 21-year-old Wheeler earned a Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University, and a year later, went to Copenhagen to study with Niels Bohr. Once the United States entered World War II, Wheeler joined the Manhattan Project. He accepted new government projects after the war, while also teaching and performing research at Princeton University and the University of Texas.

Wheeler had a tremendous influence over his colleagues and students. Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at MIT, called Wheeler “[T]he last Titan, the only physics superhero still standing.” Quantum theorist Wojciech Zurek said, “I was transformed as a scientist by him—not just by listening to him in the classroom, or by his physics idea: I think even more important was his confidence in me.”

Hugh Everett developed his Nobel Prize-winning Ph.D. thesis, the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, while studying under Wheeler.

After a heart attack, the 90-year-old Wheeler launched himself on his final adventure of the mind: understanding existence. He believed the physical universe is created in part by our own observations of it.

Headline Links: Remembering John A. Wheeler

Background: Wheeler’s life, career and theories

Reference: Black holes, many-worlds theory, the Manhattan Project

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