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Bryce DeWitt

Bryce DeWitt

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Bryce Seligman DeWitt (January 8, 1923 – September 23, 2004) was a theoretical physicist renowned for advancing gravity and field theories.


He systematically approached the quantization of general relativity, in particular, developed canonical quantum gravity and manifestly covariant methods that use the heat kernel
Heat kernel
In the mathematical study of heat conduction and diffusion, a heat kernel is the fundamental solution to the heat equation on a particular domain with appropriate boundary conditions. It is also one of the main tools in the study of the spectrum of the Laplace operator, and is thus of some...

. B. DeWitt formulated the Wheeler-deWitt equation
Wheeler-deWitt equation
In theoretical physics, the Wheeler–DeWitt equation is a functional differential equation. It is ill defined in the general case, but very important in theoretical physics, especially in quantum gravity. It is a functional differential equation on the space of three dimensional spatial metrics...

 for the wavefunction
Not to be confused with the related concept of the Wave equationA wave function or wavefunction is a probability amplitude in quantum mechanics describing the quantum state of a particle and how it behaves. Typically, its values are complex numbers and, for a single particle, it is a function of...

 of the Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

 with John Archibald Wheeler
John Archibald Wheeler
John Archibald Wheeler was an American theoretical physicist who was largely responsible for reviving interest in general relativity in the United States after World War II. Wheeler also worked with Niels Bohr in explaining the basic principles behind nuclear fission...

 and advanced the formulation of the Hugh Everett
Hugh Everett
Hugh Everett III was an American physicist who first proposed the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, which he termed his "relative state" formulation....

's many-worlds interpretation
Many-worlds interpretation
The many-worlds interpretation is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that asserts the objective reality of the universal wavefunction, but denies the actuality of wavefunction collapse. Many-worlds implies that all possible alternative histories and futures are real, each representing an...

 of quantum mechanics. With his student Larry Smarr
Larry Smarr
Larry Smarr is a physicist and leader in scientific computing, supercomputer applications, and Internet infrastructure.He received both his BA and MS at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri and received a Ph.D...

 he originated the field of numerical relativity
Numerical relativity
Numerical relativity is one of the branches of general relativity that uses numerical methods and algorithms to solve and analyze problems. To this end, supercomputers are often employed to study black holes, gravitational waves, neutron stars and many other phenomena governed by Einstein's Theory...


He received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. His Ph.D. (1950) supervisor was Julian S. Schwinger. Afterwards he worked at the Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study
The Institute for Advanced Study, located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States, is an independent postgraduate center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. It was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner...

, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a public research university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States...

 and the University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is a state research university located in Austin, Texas, USA, and is the flagship institution of the The University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, its campus is located approximately from the Texas State Capitol in Austin...

. He was awarded the Dirac Prize
Dirac Prize
The Dirac Prize is the name of four prominent awards in the field of theoretical physics, computational chemistry, and mathematics, awarded by different organizations, named in honour of Professor Paul Dirac, one of the great theoretical physicists of the 20th Century.- The Dirac Medal and Lecture...

 in 1987, the American Physical Society
American Physical Society
The American Physical Society is the world's second largest organization of physicists, behind the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft. The Society publishes more than a dozen scientific journals, including the world renowned Physical Review and Physical Review Letters, and organizes more than 20...

's Einstein Prize
Einstein Prize (APS)
The Einstein Prize is a biennial prize, awarded by the American Physical Society since 2003. The recipient is chosen for "outstanding accomplishments in the field of gravitational physics". The prize is named after Albert Einstein , who authored the theories of special and general relativity. The...

 in 2005, and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

 and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

He was born Carl Bryce Seligman but he and his three brothers added "DeWitt" from their mother's side of the family, at the urging of their father, in 1950. (20 years later this change of name so angered Felix Bloch
Felix Bloch
Felix Bloch was a Swiss physicist, working mainly in the U.S.-Life and work:Bloch was born in Zürich, Switzerland to Jewish parents Gustav and Agnes Bloch. He was educated there and at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, also in Zürich. Initially studying engineering he soon changed to physics...

 that he blocked DeWitt's appointment to Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 and DeWitt instead moved to Austin, Texas.) He served in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 as a naval aviator. He was married to accomplished mathematical physicist Cécile DeWitt-Morette
Cécile DeWitt-Morette
Cécile Andrée Paule DeWitt-Morette is a French mathematician and physicist. She founded a summer school at Les Houches in the French Alps. For this and her publications, she was awarded the American Society of the French Legion of Honor 2007 Medal for Distinguished Achievement...

. He died September 23, 2004 from pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer
Pancreatic cancer refers to a malignant neoplasm of the pancreas. The most common type of pancreatic cancer, accounting for 95% of these tumors is adenocarcinoma, which arises within the exocrine component of the pancreas. A minority arises from the islet cells and is classified as a...

 at the age of 81. He is buried in France, and was survived by his wife and four daughters.


  • Bryce DeWitt, Dynamical theory of groups and fields, Gordon and Breach, New York, 1965
  • Bryce DeWitt, R. Neill Graham, eds., The Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, Princeton Series in Physics, Princeton University Press
    Princeton University Press
    -Further reading:* "". Artforum International, 2005.-External links:* * * * *...

     (1973), ISBN 0-691-08131-X.
  • S. M. Christensen, ed., Quantum theory of gravity. Essays in honor of the 60th birthday of Bryce S. DeWitt, Adam Hilger, Bristol, 1984.
  • Bryce DeWitt, Supermanifolds, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1985.
  • Bryce DeWitt, The Global Approach to Quantum Field Theory, The International Series of Monographs on Physics, Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press
    Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is governed by a group of 15 academics appointed by the Vice-Chancellor known as the Delegates of the Press. They are headed by the Secretary to the Delegates, who serves as...

     (2003), ISBN 978-0198510932.
  • "Sopra un raggio di luce", Di Renzo Editore, Roma, 2005.

further reading

, , Gregory Vilkovisky
|title=Bryce Seligman DeWitt
|journal=Physics Today
Physics Today
Physics Today, created in 1948, is the membership journal of the American Institute of Physics. It is provided to 130,000 members of twelve physics societies, including the American Physical Society...

|volume=58 |issue=3 |pages=84
|bibcode = 2005PhT....58c..84D }}

External links