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Teaching Katharine Way at the University of North Carolina


Bohr's compound nucleus model
John Wheeler Scientist
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So this compound nucleus model gave a whole new simplicity to the subject of nuclear physics. It was too simple for many people, but for those of us who believed in Theodore Roosevelt's motto: "Do what you can with what you have, where you are", this was a wonderful godsend to understand a great part of nuclear physics. It was only later that the idea became clear that the structure is much more detailed than a liquid drop[let] model would suggest. Later, in that revision, was Maria Mayer, who had been a teacher of mine at Johns Hopkins. She was the wife of the physicist, of the chemist, Joe Mayer; he was a professor at Johns Hopkins, and she was not given any decent position at all. Women didn't rate in those days. But when the Nobel Prize came to be awarded, it was awarded to her, not to Joe. She and Joe had given an engagement party for Janette and me in the four-day interval between my return from Copenhagen and my marriage. So I always felt grateful to her. ...And no time to change your mind!

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, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008