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Colleagues in Copenhagen: Otto Frisch and James Franck


Hitler and depression era Germany
John Wheeler Scientist
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Sometimes some of my fellow boarders at the boarding house where I lived, the Danes, would turn on the radio in the evening, hear what Hitler said, ranting and roaring. But the most impressive sign of Hitler came to me when I entered Europe, taking a train from Antwerp in Belgium, where my ship dropped me, through Germany, to Denmark. And I, sitting up all night on the train, got to Cologne, Germany, in the morning, and went to the station restaurant to get breakfast. The depths of the Depression, it hit Germany terribly hard. And I was the only one getting breakfast. But as I sat there eating my lonesome meal, there was a storm trooper going up and down the end, with his clanking boots on the floor, looking at me suspiciously. He never questioned me, he never intervened, but I felt there was Hitler. And as I got back on the train and went through Germany, I saw this gloomy picture of hopeless looking people wandering the streets, no jobs, no work, no money, and- no future. On the ship going from America to Germany, there had been a couple of Germans, and one of them was going back, looking forward to being in the armed forces of Hitler. To him, it really meant something.

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, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008