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Bohr in America: nuclear fission (Part 1)


1938: decision to go to Princeton (Part 2)
John Wheeler Scientist
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And so I knew that there were fellowships, and with a salary at the great level of $2300, I needed money if I were going to come and visit. So I got a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study. And what did my office consist of? A chair in the library with a drawer where I could keep my papers. But that was fine. And there was Hermann Weyl, the great man in mathematical physics, who give beautiful lectures that I could attend. And my friends in the physics department of the university knew I was interested in nuclear physics, so I found myself giving lectures in nuclear physics. And that led to an offer to come to Princeton. But Johns Hopkins at this time also wanted nuclear physics, and they offered me a position with a higher rank and a higher salary. But I felt that there were so many wonderful people in Princeton, it had such leadership in mathematical physics, that I should come here, and I did. That was the fall of 1938. I can remember my wife weeping as we left Chapel Hill in the car with our two children to come here, because we had so many happy memories of North Carolina, but we also had happy memories later, of Princeton.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 2 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008