Hugh Everett

US physicist and discoverer of the relative-state interpretation of quantum mechanics

Hugh Everett III (November 11, 1930July 19, 1982) was an American physicist who first proposed the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, which he called his "relative state" formulation. He left physics after completing his Ph. D., discouraged at the lack of response to his theories from other physicists. He developed the use of generalized lagrange multipliers in operations research and applied this commercially as a defense analyst and a consultant, becoming a multi-millionaire.


  • As an analogy one can imagine an intelligent amoeba with a good memory. As time progresses the amoeba is constantly splitting, each time the resulting amoebas having the same memories as the parent. Our amoeba hence does not have a life line, but a life tree.
    • illustrating the branching of individuals in many worlds each time an observation is performed, in an early draft of his doctoral dissertation (1950s). Accessible at Read original documents of Nova's Parallel worlds documentary of Hugh Everett's work.
  • The physical "reality" is assumed to be the wave function of the whole universe itself.
    • in an early draft of his doctoral dissertation (1950s).
  • [The Many-worlds interpretation is the] only completely coherent approach to explaining both the contents of quantum mechanics and the appearance of the world.

About Hugh Everett

  • Hugh Everett's work has been described by many people in terms of many worlds, the idea being that every one of the various alternative histories, branching histories, is assigned some sort of reality.
  • If you want to get an interesting perspective do not think of Hugh as a traditional 20th century physicist but more of a Renaissance man with interests and skills in many different areas. He was smart and lots of things interested him and he brought the same general conceptual methodology to solve them. The subject matter was not so important as the solution ideas.
    • Donald Reisler[2]
  • Someone once noted that Hugh Everett should have been declared a "national resource," and given all the time and resources he needed to develop new theories.
    • Joseph George Caldwell "An Historical Note on Lambda Corporation, Hugh Everett III, and John Nash." [3][4]
  • My father, Hugh Everett, III, author of the Many Worlds Theory, was a quiet man during the eighteen or so years I shared a house with him. Turns out he was depressed over a sad childhood and then being dismissed as a kook, only later - too late - to be recognized as a genius.
  • I think about how angry I was that my dad didn't take better care of himself. How he never went to a doctor, let himself become grossly overweight, smoked three packs a day, drank like a fish and never exercised. But then I think about how his colleague mentioned that, days before dying, my dad had said he lived a good life and that he was satisfied. I realize that there is a certain value in my father's way of life. He ate, smoked and drank as he pleased, and one day he just suddenly and quickly died. Given some of the other choices I'd witnessed, it turns out that enjoying yourself and then dying quickly is not such a hard way to go.
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