DeWitt reminds physicists about Everett (1970s)

During those years, Everett's contact with quantum mechanics was limited essentially to reading Physics Today. [88] In 1968 the theory of relative states was mentioned in a book by Aage Petersen [89], but on the whole Everett's concept was largely forgotten or treated as if taboo. Bryce DeWitt recollects [38] that even the recognized expert on the history of quantum mechanics Max Jammer, who visited DeWitt in 1969, had never heard of his interpretation.

(Here is one more vivid scene. About 1970 Everett interviewed a young Ph.D., Donald Reisler, for a job at Lambda Corp. After lunch, he rather timidly asked if Reisler had read his paper on the relative-state formulation. Reisler thought for an instant and replied, Oh my God, you are that Everett, the crazy one who wrote that insane paper. I had read it in graduate school and chuckled, rejected it out of hand, and went on with my straightforward business. [90] They quickly became friends.)

DeWitt resolved to rectify this situation [38]. He wrote an article for Physics Today, which appeared in September 1970 [91], after which Everett could no longer be ignored. (A flood of reader responses, with comments by DeWitt, followed [92-93].) Soon after the publication of the article DeWitt contacted Everett asking whether the large work (about which Everett has written to him in 1957) still existed, and Everett promised to look for the manuscript [88]. At this point Wheeler withdrew his support for Everett's view (because he disliked the publicity surrounding it, in DeWitt's opinion [38]).

DeWitt, with the help of his student R. Neill Graham, reviewed some 500 articles on interpretations of quantum mechanics [94, 38]. And in 1971, after receiving from Nancy Everett the unique saved copy of the "large" thesis, he asked Everett what he thought of the idea of publishing it. [38] Everett gave his permission with the proviso that he not be responsible for the technical work of editing, proofreading, etc. [88]. DeWitt accepted this condition (those duties were performed by Neill Graham), and in April, 1972 Princeton University Press received DeWitt's proposal for a collection including Everett's long work and articles by leading physicists on the subject [95]. Four months later the proposal was accepted, although not without remarks about how much time had passed since Everett's work was written and about its unpopularity in many quarters [95]. It was at first planned to issue the book in the winter, then in the spring; in fact it was published only in the autumn of 1973 [97-99]. For the past fifteen years it has been hard to find a copy of the book [36, 100], but the preface by DeWitt (with elegant and appropriate epigraphs from the writing of Jorge Luis Borges and William James added) is accessible on the Internet [101]. It is Everett's last (and most important) publication. (Later reprints have appeared.)


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