Bryce DeWitt letter (1957)

Not long after the defense, Wheeler received from Bryce DeWitt, who was the editor of the proceedings of the Chapel Hill conference, an eight-page review of Everett's paper [52]. (DeWitt, incidentally, did not know that Everett's paper was a Ph.D. thesis.) Wheeler sent the review to Everett, who then provided a four-page response to DeWitt [43]. DeWitt wrote that Everett's work had rather a more philosophical than a physical character, which was acceptable, since "physicists themselves are obliged to be their own epistemologists." He astutely surmised that there was not simply a verbal but also a more substantive parallelism between Everett's "relative state" and Einstein's "relativity." Everett, in his paper, treated the external observer in the way that Einstein had done with a privileged inertial frame. However, although agreeing with Everett's physics and his logic (in particular, with Everett's assertion that probability theory and measure theory are mathematically equivalent), DeWitt decidedly disagreed with the epistemological conclusions that Everett reached. DeWitt, based on his own experience, rejected the reality of the world branching. Everett liked DeWitt's analysis so much that he sent parts of it to others with whom he was corresponding.

Everett, in his response to DeWitt, willingly engaged in discussion about what should be understood as a valid theory in general, but his main effort was given to convincing DeWitt that, according to the proposed concept, each parallel observer would not feel branching. Instead, he argued, the image of a constantly branching world represents not an abstract formalism but an isomorphic description of reality. Prior to publication, Everett was able to add these explanations in a footnote to the fifth part of his article (by way of analogy, he cited Newton's mechanics confirming Copernican theory just by proving that Earth's inhabitants should not feel Earth's motion). Everett's article and the companion contribution by Wheeler appeared in the July 1957 issue of Reviews of Modern Physics [45, 46] (an issue that also contained a paper by Misner based on his thesis [24a, page 268]).

And then-nothing. Although Wheeler once mentioned Everett in a sequence with Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein [46], the scientific world preferred not to notice the article by Everett, which Max Jammer in the 1970s named "one of the best kept secrets in this century" [53]. This silence of non-recognition seriously wounded Everett for a long time. Despite his intellectual independence even from the most authoritative judgments of others, he was emotionally rather sensitive to them, as one can infer from his correspondence [54] and in the recollections of the people who knew him [38, 55].


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