John Archibald Wheeler was one of the foremost physicists of the 20th century, and his influence will long endure. His many important contributions to our body of knowledge (see the articles by Kenneth Ford, page 29, and by Charles Misner, Kip Thorne, and Wojciech Zurek, page 40, in this issue) are matched by his enthusiasm for working with students and their enthusiasm for working with him. I contend that Wheeler’s most significant contribution was not to the corpus of physics but rather to the community of physicists.

Physics research is, of course, a cumulative enterprise. Today’s magnificent breakthrough is tomorrow’s building block, which, in turn, will serve to support the next breakthrough. Along with this summing of ideas comes the multiplicative influence that a skillful mentor has on generations of scientists, whether or not they are adequately aware of their intellectual heritage.

Wheeler’s own advisees were surely cognizant...

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