I was at the AAAS meeting in San Francisco Hilton when Wheeler gave his famous anti-paranormal speech in denial of his own formidable psychic & visionary powers - descendant of Merlin of Camelot no doubt - no possible doubt whatever. Maureen only found out about this after Wheeler's death so that rules out precognitive remote viewing on Wheeler's part. The skeptic will give a local causes explanation that Maureen being a relative of Wheeler's did look like his grandmother - so no need for a paranormal explanation.
Reprinted below with permission.
Maureen A. Rafferty
June 6, 2010 at 7:09pm
Regarding: Photo: 1971--Sarfatti and Wheeler
The photo of you (1971) is beautiful--the whole image including the blackboard. I liked your Wheeler comment, too.
I met John A. Wheeler in May 1999 at C.N. Yang's retirement symposium. We met one Friday morning when I climbed into the van at the hotel in Port Jefferson, NY, which took us to SUNY Stony Brook for the conference. All the van seats were taken, so I sat up front near the driver. John A. Wheeler was sitting behind my left shoulder and started chatting with me. The first thing he said to me was, "You look so organized." The best thing about the conversation is that I didn't know who I was talking with at that moment. It was a pure moment. The physicist behind me tapped me on my right shoulder and said, "That's *#^@*$!." I couldn't understand his Chinese accent. When we arrived at the university and got out of the van, I asked the physicist from Taiwan to repeat what he had said. This time I heard, "John A. Wheeler." Oh my, I thought.
On Saturday morning I was first in the van and Wheeler came in and sat next to me. While we were waiting, he said to me, "I remember my grandmother." He had a far-off, otherworldly look in his eyes, as if he was being transported back in time, and I felt that I had evoked this feeling of his grandmother. There was something about our connection that evoked "grandmother." He felt comfortable with me and opened up about personal things. He talked about trains and how much he liked them and how he had traveled across country on them as a boy. He said he needed a ride to the train station on Sunday morning and, since I was one of the only people who had a rent-a-car, I offered to drive him.
After the Saturday evening banquet honoring C. N. Yang and where Freeman Dyson gave a talk, on Sunday morning John A. Wheeler came out of his hotel room--at the spill-over hotel as the Holiday Inn was full--carrying one little black suitcase and climbed into the back seat of my car, along with Professor Joe Sucher (University of Maryland) who, sitting up front, also needed a ride to the train station. At one point as I was driving, it hit me. I had better drive carefully! I had precious cargo on board! I felt the vast responsibility. Wheeler had changed his mind and wanted to be driven to the Holiday Inn in Stony Brook, whereby, his friend (Hal Fitch) drove him back to Princeton. I took Dr. Sucher, whose wife, Dorothy Sucher, wrote the book, The Invisible Garden, on to the train station. The whole drive was 'otherworldly' as we were all in the flow. Definitely, the flow. At the Holiday Inn, I gave Wheeler something to eat for the ride home as well as a physics t-shirt I had designed.
Years later, I was doing genealogy research. By then I had found out that some of my relatives were from Vermont, which was news to me because I had grown up thinking I was 100% Irish. (William French who was one of the first to spill blood for the American Revolution in the Westminster Massacre, March 13, 1775, was my relative. His father was my g....grandfather, Nathaniel French of Fort Dummer and, later, of Brattleboro, VT.) John A. Wheeler had told me his family was from Vermont so I started researching his lineage. To my utmost surprise I found that John Archibald Wheeler and I shared a common grandmother in Joanna Blessing. (No wonder he mentioned his grandmother when he was near me!) Joanna Blessing Towne is the mother of my g....grandmother, Rebecca Towne Nurse of Salem, MA. One of Rebecca's brothers was John A. Wheeler's g....grandfather. Rebecca was the 71-year old woman who was hung during the Salem Witch Trials and the subject of The Crucible (1953) by Arthur Miller. (See: Rebecca Nurse Homestead, Salem, MA.) In my family lineage, Nathaniel French, Jr. (William French's brother) married Betty Nurse Duncan in Vermont and they are my g....grandparents, eventually leading to the birth of my great grandmother, Lura Lamb, whose family tree origins includes a common grandfather of Dr. Willis Lamb, Jr., Nobel Prize winner; and, also, Demarius Lamb, who was the first wife of John Deere. Upon Demarius's death at 60-years old, John Deere returned to Granville, VT, from Moline, IL, and married Demarius's sister.
Hey, I had better stop here because, like a decision tree, family trees go on and on. I thought you would like to know that John A. Wheeler and I had evoked a 'grandmother vibration' between us and, upon further investigation, it happened to be true! I found this out after Professor Wheeler passed away.
Thanks for the lovely Facebook picture of you from 1971.
With every good wish,