The Manhattan Project

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & HistoryNational Museum of Nuclear Science & History

John Wheeler

Printer-friendly version

John Archibald Wheeler was an American theoretical physicist and the leading physicist in residence at Hanford. He solved the riddle of the B Reactor going dead a few hours after it started, an event that threatened to delay seriously the first production of plutonium.

Early in his career at Princeton, in 1939, Wheeler and Danish physicist Niels Bohr collaborated to develop the first general theory of the mechanism of fission, which included identifying the nuclei most susceptible to fission, a landmark accomplishment that helped make Wheeler, at age 28, world fa­mous among nuclear physicists.

After the war, at Los Alamos, he directed the group which produced the conceptual design for the first family of thermonuclear weapons. He became interested in astrophysics and coined the term "black holes." In 1976, Wheeler joined the department of physics at the University of Texas at Austin.