John A. Wheeler Graduate Fellowship in Physics

Jun 8, 1989 | Graduate Fellowships

The John A. Wheeler Graduate Fellowship in Physics was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System for the benefit of UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences. The endowment, designed to support outstanding graduate students in the Department of Physics, is named for professor emeritus John A. Wheeler,  the renowned theoretical physicist who coined the term “black hole.” Wheeler joined UT Austin in 1976, after spending a significant part of his career as professor of physics at Princeton University (1938-1976).

While at the Forty Acres, he served as Director of the Institute for Theoretical Physics and was instrumental in attracting other notable theoretical physicists to the university, including Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg. His seminal contributions to theoretical physics include introducing the S-matrix, an indispensable tool in particle physics, and pioneering the theory of nuclear fission with Niels Bohr and Enrico Fermi. During World War II, Wheeler participated in the development of the atomic bomb under the Manhattan Project.

After the Manhattan Project, Wheeler continued his academic research, introducing the word “wormhole” to describe tunnels in space-time. His work in general relativity included the theory of gravitational collapse, and he coined the term “black hole” in 1967 during a talk at the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

He was influential in mentoring a generation of physicists who made notable contributions to quantum mechanics and gravitation in what is known as the golden age of general relativity. His graduate students from Princeton include Nobel Laureates Richard Feynman and Kip Thorne, and Hugh Everett; some of the most distinguished physicists of the second half of the 20th century.

Wheeler won numerous prizes and awards, including: the Enrico Fermi Award in 1968, the Franklin Medal in 1969, the Einstein Prize in 1969, the National Medal of Science in 1971, the Niels Bohr Prize in 1984, and the Wolf Prize in 1997. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the Royal Academy, the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, and the Century Association. He also received honorary degrees from 18 different institutions.

Wheeler’s legacy will continue to be celebrated at The University of Texas at Austin, and in the world of science, for generations to come.

January 24, 2019

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