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The atomic physicist who lost “the biggest secret on the planet” in a train bathroom (and the mystery of where it ended up)

  • Roger Hermiston*
  • For BBC History Extra

Albert Einstein, Hideki Yukawa, and John Archibald Wheeler in conversation at Princeton, 1954.

image source, Getty Images

Caption,

Albert Einstein, Hideki Yukawa, and John Archibald Wheeler in conversation at Princeton, 1954.

On the morning of Wednesday, January 7, 1953, atomic physicist John Archibald Wheeler stood on tiptoe in a train bathroom toilet to peer into the cubicle next door, where another man was doing what is done in such intimate spaces. .

Wheeler, a happily married man, was at risk of being caught and labeled a sexual deviant.

His prestigious position at Princeton and at the top of the American scientific community would surely be destroyed by the ensuing scandal.

But at that moment he did not think about any of those consequences.

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