Samuel C. Wheeler, Jr., professor emeritus of physics at Denison University, passed away on 9 May 1995 at his home in Granville, Ohio. Born in Montclair, New Jersey, 3 June 1913, Sam graduated from Hamilton (Ohio) High School in 1920, earned a bachelor's degree from Miami University of Ohio in 1942, and a master's degree from the University of Illinois in 1943. During World War II, he did underwater sound research at the San Diego Naval Base, remaining as a physicist with the US Navy Electronics Lab until 1948. Sam became an instructor of physics at Denison University in 1948 and continued work on his doctorate at The Ohio State University where he received his PhD in physics in 1960.
Dr. Wheeler taught physics and astronomy at Denison University from 1948 until his retirement in 1978, and joined the AAS in 1963. He was chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department from 1960 to 1970. Under Sam's calm and reasoned guidance, the Department grew both in size and in stature, from a three-man department in 1948 to a six-person department at his retirement in 1978. His principle legacy as chair, and as the personal and intellectual leader of the department, was to infuse his philosophy of education as a modus operandi: the teaching of physics must be combined with the doing of physics. The intense involvement of the present faculty both with teaching and with scholarly activity, as well as the diverse activities and interests of his many former students, are ample evidence of the success with which his philosophy has been turned into practice. Denison alumni from his tenure include a number of physicists and at least one astronomer, John T. Clarke, actively involved in research. In the late 1970's, Dr. Wheeler received the Howard Maxwell Award for Contributions to the Teaching of Physics from the Ohio Section of the American Physical Society. Wheeler's involvement in science teaching led to service with the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education, the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, and other organizations.
Wheeler listed his primary scientific interests as underwater sound calibration techniques; sonic properties of materials; theory of infrared spectra of polyatomic molecules; and theoretical molecular physics, the latter two with clear connections to astronomy. After Dr. Wheeler's retirement from Denison, he pursued his long-time hobby of wood sculpturing, and many of his sculptures have been exhibited throughout the central Ohio area. His correspondence and other records are housed in the archives of the Howard Doane Library at Denison.