N° 504
John Wheeler Between Cold Matter and Frozen Stars: The Road Towards Black Holes
Download pdf

One of the truly decisive figures in the flourishing of general relativity that began in the 1950s, the eminent physicist John A. Wheeler (1911-2008) is best known today to the general public because of the adoption of the phrase ‘black hole’. Still, that seems quite a thin reason for scientific fame – the question, then, is: what did Wheeler actually do in that field? A proper answer has to take into account a plurality of levels, from Wheeler's peculiarly visual style to his interactions with his own school and other groups, from the pioneering uses of computers to his early visions of quantum gravity. That is what this paper offers, while tracing Wheeler's evolving positions – from rejection to enthusiastic acceptance and popularisation – during the fifteen years (ca 1952-1967) preceding the moment black holes became ‘black holes’.