Around 1990 I was in the window seat of an airplane heading into Dallas Texas. I happened to glance back and noticed an elderly gentleman on the aisle of the row behind me. He looked strangely familiar. Finally, after we landed and were getting ready to leave the plane, I worked up my courage and asked him, "Sir, are you John Archibald Wheeler?"
When he admitted that he was I shook his hand and introduced myself as his academic grandchild. One of his grad students many years ago, Kip Thorne, was my thesis advisor. I fancy that my thanks and acknowledgement gave him a smile.
Professor Wheeler made many discoveries during his long and productive career. Perhaps his most important gift was his ability to energize the minds of his colleagues. Johnny Wheeler combined originality, deep insight, sharp physical instincts, and sound judgment. He contributed to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics (with his student Hugh Everett), the sum-over-all-histories approach to quantum electrodynamics (with his student Richard Feynman), and a mountain of work involving gravitation, nuclear physics, and other topics. He passed away a few days ago.
|John Archibald Wheeler — 1911-2008|