John Wheeler

Albert Einstein finished his general theory of relativity in November 1915, and in the hundred years since, its influence has been profound, dramatically influencing the direction of physics, cosmology, and mathematics. The theory upended Isaac...

Light is the great unifier. John Wheeler, the beloved Princeton physicist, used to draw the universe as a big capital U with a little eye on one leg, signifying that we, human beings, are the eyes of the universe looking back at...

I gave a copy of the preprint of my paper to Robert Oppenheimer, who, as Director of the Institute for Advanced Study, was my host. A week later I met him at an Eastern Physics Meeting at the University of Maryland, my home institution. When I asked him if he had read my paper, he replied, “Greenberg, it’s beautiful!” I was elated. After a pause, he completed his assessment of my paper by saying, “But I don’t believe a word of it!”

In 1935, Albert Einstein and collaborators wrote two papers at the Institute for Advanced Study. One was on quantum mechanics [1] and the other was on black holes [2]. The paper on quantum mechanics is very famous and influential. It pointed out...

In the two years I spent at the Institute, 1957–59, I had the opportunity of meeting two of the founders of the quantum theory—Niels Bohr and Paul Dirac. In the case of Bohr, perhaps “meeting” overstates the case. He was a Mem­ber in the spring...

The ancients thought that space and time were preexisting entities on which motion happens. Of course, this is also our naive intuition. According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, we know that this is not true. Space and time are dynamical objects whose shape is modified by the bodies that move in it.

I sometimes like to think about what it might be like inside a black hole. What does that even mean? Is it really “like” anything inside a black hole? Nature keeps us from ever knowing. (Well, what we know for sure is that nature keeps us from...

If two such great thinkers as Bohr and Einstein, who had such a high regard for each other, could be brought together for a prolonged period, would not something emerge of great value to all of us? This thought and this hope animated the guiding spirits of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study to invite Niels Bohr to come as a guest of the Institute for the entire spring semester of 1939.

“Scientific research in many domains of knowledge has time after time proved the necessity of abandoning or remoulding viewpoints which, due to their fruitfulness and apparently unrestricted applicability, were regarded as indispensable for...