Theoretical physics takes root in America : John Archibald Wheeler as student and mentor Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/8w32r7988

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  • John Archibald Wheeler (09 July 1911- ) is a familiar name to physicists and historians of physics alike. Among his many contributions to the corpus of knowledge, in 1939 John Wheeler and Niels Bohr co-authored the first paper on the generalized mechanism of nuclear fission. Beyond that seminal work, Wheeler was a key player in the production of the 'Fat Man' plutonium weapon in the Manhattan project, and later, in the development of the Hydrogen Bomb. Wheeler introduced the scattering matrix (or S-matrix) to account for all possible final quantum states of collisions between nucleons. After turning his attention to general relativity, Wheeler and his students made a number of significant contributions to cosmology and cosmology. In fact, John Wheeler coined the term "black hole," and developed the concepts of a "Planck Length," a Planck-time," "quantum foam," and "wormholes" in space-time. Outside the physics community however, considerably less is known about John Wheeler as a mentor of physicists. Mentoring is important because, while there can be no progress in physics without contributions to the corpus of knowledge, these contributions are, by their very nature additive. In contrast, the contributions of skilled mentors such as John Archibald Wheeler are multiplicative through a number of intellectual generations. Until quite recently, studies of mentoring in science were limited to 'laboratory' and/or 'field' disciplines such as chemistry and the life sciences. Clearly, mentoring styles are highly individualized. Nonetheless, a comprehensive census of elite mentors can offer considerable insight into the practice of mentoring in theoretical physics. This examination of the mentoring style and outcomes of John Archibald Wheeler traces his work as an apprentice under mentors Karl Herzfeld, Gregory Breit, and Niels Bohr, through Wheeler's career as a mentor in his own right at Princeton University during the years 1938-1977.
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