After a few days when I first learned about the death of the great physicist John Archibald Wheeler, and after reading all the comments on this beautiful tribute to him, a strange feeling is left on me.
I have never met him, but how many times and hours have I happily devoted myself to his tour de force Gravitation (with Misner and Thorne)? How many times have I submerged in intellectually stimulating thoughts that he so intelligently raised? How much have I learned from him? I cannot gauge that.
After these few days when I learned about his death, I can only think of the impact… of the absence of a great scientist… the work he left… the really one of the last from a generation of great physicists… what is yet to come?… and think about myself and what is left from me, as an ever-learning scientist and person.
Rest in peace.
[Update:] An obituary written by Peebles and Unruh has been released yesterday by Nature (you need a subscription). There one can learn the following:
John Wheeler was an exuberant person. He happened to be in the office of one of us, Jim Peebles, when a student, Dan, came in with his new dissertation.
John: What’s it about?
Dan: A search for correlations of position angles of galaxies.
John: Gödel would be interested.
Dan: Who’s Gödel?
John: To say Gödel is the greatest logician since Aristotle would be to slight Gödel.
John picked up the phone, got Gödel on the line, and handed the phone to Dan. We don’t know what Gödel made of this call (he haddiscovered a rotating-universe model), but John had got to do what he loved best: inspire a young person.