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Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam

He studied with Niels Bohr, taught Richard Feynman, and boned up on relativity with his friend and colleague Albert Einstein. John Archibald Wheeler's fascinating life brings us face to face with the central characters and discoveries of modern physics. He was the first American to learn of the discovery of nuclear fission, later coined the term "black hole," led a renaissance in gravitation physics, and helped to build Princeton University into a mecca for physicists. From nuclear physics, to quantum theory, to relativity and gravitation, Wheeler's work has set the trajectory of research for half a century. His career has brought him into contact with the most brilliant minds of his field; Fermi, Bethe, Rabi, Teller, Oppenheimer, and Wigner are among those he called colleagues and friends. In this rich autobiography, Wheeler reveals in fascinating detail the excitement of each discovery, the character of each colleague, and the underlying passion for knowledge that drives him still.
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About the Author

John Archibald Wheeler currently holds an emeritus professorship at Princeton University, where he spent most of his career. Kenneth Ford is the retired director of the American Institute of Physics. He recently taught high-school physics and served as science director of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


The lives of the key figures in 20th-century physics have been copiously documented in dozens of biographical and historical works. Somewhat unusually, Wheeler, perhaps best known for having coined the term black hole, chose to write his own story. The results are personal (but not especially insightful) and informative (but not especially revealing). He begins with his account of the discovery of fission and the Manhattan Project, which has been retold so many times that his anecdotes supply nothing new. Likewise, his remembrances of subsequent research into electromagnetic and gravitational fields, conducted against the backdrop of the Cold War, are honest and poignant but quite familiar to readers of this genre. Wheeler is best at explaining the significance of his own work in lay terms, and he gives an enticing view of his latest vision of physics, in which "everything is information." A rigorous scientific biography would do more justice to his career. Recommended, with reservations, for academic and larger public libraries.‘Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, FL

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