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First job: University of North Carolina


Meeting Janette Hegner. Work in Denmark with Niels Bohr
John Wheeler Scientist
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Occasionally there were afternoon lectures, and once in a while my father could be induced to leave work a little bit early to go to one of these lectures, then I could get a ride home in the car with him instead of, as usual, taking the trolley. And at one of these lectures there was a young lady I knew, Janette Hegner. And I knew her sister better than Janette. But it turned out we could take her home in the car, drop her off on our way home. And after we dropped her out, he said to me, John, that's the kind of a girl I hope you'll marry. Well, as luck put it, quite apart from anything he ever said, we ended up that way. But I was the most foolish man in the world, not borrowing money to marry her a year earlier and take her to Denmark, when I went to work with Niels Bohr, after I had my Doctor's degree. Because, in many ways, that was the most important year of my life, getting acquainted with the great problems, with great perspectives, and meeting the wonderful people from the world of physics who came every year to Bohr's little conference where there may be thirty or forty people from different centers. Each one of them had been, in the course of the year, distilling the problems around to pick what was most important. And then they brought these problems with them, as they came to Copenhagen, and then Bohr would distill from them the most important problem.

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, 22 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008