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Conceiving of the scattering matrix from resonating group structure


Teaching Katharine Way at the University of North Carolina
John Wheeler Scientist
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Well, at North Carolina, my first teaching, I had both undergraduate and graduate students in different courses. The graduate students were all older than me, and so, instead of calling me 'Professor Wheeler', they called me 'Brother Wheeler', which I enjoyed. Two students got their degrees with me, one was Hermon Parker and the other Katharine Way, but both in nuclear physics. North Carolina had engaged me because they wanted to have modern nuclear physics, and it was thought it was natural that the research should be in that field. Katharine Way's work took up the liquid drop[let] model, and analyzed how much magnetic effect an atomic nucleus could have through whirling around its axis. And she found that if it had too large a whirl, it broke. And so interesting that we came so close to Nuclear Fission except that in nuclear fission, it's vibration that caused the nuclear to break, and here this was rotation. But although we could have foreseen nuclear fission, we did not foresee it. Katherine Way went on to nuclear physics and she became the authority on nuclear data, nuclear energies, and Probabilities of Transformation.

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, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008