John Archibald Wheeler, 1911 – 2008

John Archibald Wheeler, an American great theoretical physicist, died yesterday.

I’m not in the field of physics, so I do not know this giant, until I read a book by Kip Thorne – Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy. I got the book from Borders bookstore few months ago at about RM80. This book centres around the history of black hole research, and the other area of science such as relativity, nuclear physics, astronomy, astrophysics that led to breakthroughs in black hole research.

This may be an old book (published in 1994), but it’s still a good read if you are really interested in the history of black hole. It told the story of how black hole at first was rejected, people just can’t believe that such an exotic thing exist in the universe, to how people begin to accept it, to understand it, to search for it, to… I have not yet finished the book, so that’s all I can say…

Wheeler was Kip Thorne’s mentor; the book I mentioned above by Thorne is dedicated to him. Wheeler was mentioned quite a lot in the book, because of his great contributions to the research of black hole and other aspect of general relativity. In fact, he was the one who invented the term “black hole”. Wheeler was also involved in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II and later in the development of hydrogen bomb. (It was all mentioned in the book, that’s why I know :-))

Wheeler will be remembered not only as a great physicist, but also as a fine mentor and friend to his many students. I do not know him well to give much comment, so I’ll just point you to a reference.

A tribute to Wheeler by one of his students – Daniel Holz – at Cosmic Variance.

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~ by thChieh on April 14, 2008.

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