Ford, Kenneth W(illiam) 1926-

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FORD, Kenneth W(illiam) 1926-


Born May 1, 1926, in West Palm Beach, FL; son of Paul Hammond and Edith (Timblin) Ford; married Karin Stehnike, August 27, 1953 (divorced, 1961); married Joanne Baumunk, June 9, 1962; children: (first marriage) Paul, Sarah, Nina (stepdaughter); (second marriage) Caroline, Adam, Jason, Ian. Education: Harvard University, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1948; Princeton University, Ph.D., 1953. Hobbies and other interests: Flying airplanes and gliders.


Home—729 Westview St., Philadelphia, PA 19119-3533. E-mail—[email protected]


Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, research assistant, 1950-51; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, research associate, 1951-52; Indiana University, South Bend, IN, 1953-58, began as research associate, became associate professor; Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, 1958-64, began as associate professor, became professor, department chair; University of California, Irvine, professor, 1964-70, department chair, 1964-68; University of Massachusetts, Boston, professor, 1970-75, department chair, 1972-74; New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, NM, president, 1972-82; University of Maryland, College Park, MD, executive vice president, 1982-83; Molecular Biophysics Technology, Inc., president, 1983-85; American Physical Society, education officer, 1986-87; American Institute of Physics, College Park, executive director and chief executive officer, 1987-93; self-employed writer and editor, 1993—. John Templeton Foundation, consultant, 2001-02, part-time teacher, 1995-2001; science director of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.


American Association of Physics Teachers, American Physical Society (Forum on Physics and Society chair, 1981; council member, 1984-87; Education Committee chair, 1985-86; Forum on History of Physics, secretary-treasurer, 2001-04), American Association for the Advancement of Science (council member, 1980s-90s), Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi.


Winner of Westinghouse Science Talent Search, 1944; prize for general excellence, Phillips Exeter Academy, 1944; Fulbright fellow, Max Planck Institute, Germany, 1955-56; National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow, Imperial College (London, England) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1961-62; distinguished service citations, American Association of Physics Teachers, 1976; American Physical Society and American Association for the Advancement of Science fellowships, 1976; physics science writing prize, American Institute of Physics, 1999, for Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics.


The World of Elementary Particles, Blaisdell Publishing (New York, NY), 1963.

Basic Physics, Blaisdell Publishing (Waltham, MA), 1968.

Classical and Modern Physics: A Textbook for Students of Science and Engineering, three volumes, Xerox College Publishing (Lexington, MA), 1972-74.

Editor, with others) Efficient Use of Energy, American Institute of Physics (New York, NY), 1975.

(With John Archibald Wheeler) Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics, W. W. Norton (New York, NY), 1998.

The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone, illustrated by Paul Hewitt, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.

Contributor of articles and reviews to scientific journals and periodicals, including Physics Review, Nuclear Physics, Annals of Physics, Scientific American, and Journal of Applied Physics; author of dictionary and encyclopedia entries. Physical Review, member of board of editors, 1960-62; American Journal of Physics, associate editor, 1974-77; Physics Teacher, member of editorial board, 2000-06.


Physicist Kenneth W. Ford has written many scientific articles and a number of textbooks, but he received his first award for writing for Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics, which he wrote with John Archibald Wheeler, whose life is recalled in the volume. Whereas most scientific figures have their lives documented by others, Wheeler chose to write his own story with Ford. Wheeler, who coined the scientific terms of the title and who discovered fission, joined the Manhattan Project, and, along with that scientific team, raced to develop a nuclear bomb as the United States was propelled into World War II.

The book notes the achievements of such physicists as Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, and Albert Einstein. They were the scientists who, like Wheeler, sought to understand the atom and its power. American Scientist contributor Chris Impey wrote that "Wheeler's story offers an insider's insights into the war effort. We learn that the Germans had mistakenly pursued graphite as a moderator and were far from a working bomb even as D-day approached. The U.S. atomic scientists were kept in the dark about this failure, to maintain the pressure on them to succeed. We learn that the Japanese conducted a partially successful incendiary bombing campaign on the western United States. This was also kept quiet to avoid public panic." Wheeler expresses regret that he had not begun working on the war effort earlier, speculating that if he had, millions of lives, including his own brother's, might have been saved.

The work of Wheeler and others who had worked on the bomb was controversial, but they forged ahead in the arms race with the Soviets. When he was in his forties, Wheeler turned his attention to "black holes, wormholes, and gravitational waves: the rips and shudders of spacetime," noted Impey. "His legacy is the 1,300-page masterwork Gravitation and the rejuvenation of the field of gravitational physics." Chicago Times contributor Frederik Pohl suggested the volume as a good read on a long plane trip. "And when you arrive," he commented, "you'll know more about current thought in physics than most other science teachers and nearly everybody else."

In Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone, Ford studies quantum numbers, granularity, superposition, entanglement, and the uncertainty principle, but in vocabulary that makes these complex subjects easier to understand "and quantum weirdness far less daunting," noted a Science News reviewer. Ford explains how, in a quantum world, matter is primarily empty space, mass increases or decreases in a collision, and time is relative. A reviewer for Innovation Watch online said that "with strikingly clear writing … The Quantum World imparts a sense of wonder and a knowledge of the strange laws governing the atoms, nuclei, and fundamental particles that inhabit the quantum world."



American Scientist, March-April, 1999, Chris Impey, review of Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics, p. 178.

Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1999, Frederik Pohl, review of Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam, p. 6.

Library Journal, September 1, 1998, Gregg Sapp, review of Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam, p. 211.

Publishers Weekly, February 9, 2004, review of The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone, p. 66.

Science News, May 1, 2004, review of The Quantum World, p. 287.


Innovation Watch, (August 17, 2004), review of The Quantum World.*