Stapp received his PhD in particle physics at the University of California, Berkeley, under the supervision of Nobel Laureates Emilio Segrè and Owen Chamberlain. While there, he was a member of the Berkeley Fundamental Fysiks Group, founded in May 1975 by Elizabeth Rauscher and George Weissmann, which met weekly to discuss philosophy and quantum physics.
Stapp moved to ETH Zurich to do post-doctoral work under Wolfgang Pauli. During this period he composed an article called "Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics," which he did not submit for publication, but which became the title of his 1993 book. When Pauli died in 1958, Stapp transferred to Munich, then in the company of Werner Heisenberg.
Some of Stapp's work concerns the implications of quantum mechanics for consciousness.
Stapp favors the idea that quantum wave functions collapse only when they interact with consciousness as a consequence of "orthodox" quantum mechanics. He argues that quantum wave functions collapse when conscious minds select one among the alternative quantum possibilities. His hypothesis of how mind may interact with matter via quantum processes in the brain differs from that of Penrose and Hameroff. While they postulate quantum computing in the microtubules in brain neurons, Stapp postulates a more global collapse, a 'mind like' wave-function collapse that exploits certain aspects of the quantum Zeno effect within the synapses. Stapp's view of the neural correlate of attention is explained in his book, Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer (2007).
In this book he also credits John von Neumann's Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (1955, 1932) with providing an "orthodox" quantum mechanics demonstrating mathematically the essential role of quantum physics in the mind.
Other fields of research
Stapp has worked also in a number of conventional areas of high energy physics, including analysis of the scattering of polarized protons, parity violation, and S-matrix theory.
- Kaiser, David. How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture and the Quantum Revival. W. W. Norton & Company, 2011, p. 254.
- Kaiser 2011, pp. xv–xvii, 101.
- "Henry Stapp, Ph.D.". Esalen Institute. May 12, 2005. Retrieved february 5, 2012.
- David Papineau, Howard Selina Introducing Consciousness. Introducingbooks.com
- Stapp H.P. Mindful Universe: Quantum Mechanics and the Participating Observer. Springer, 2007.
- Stapp's personal site, including links to papers, books and video
- List of papers by Stapp on LBNL server
- Physics and Whitehead Workshop with contribution by Henry Stapp: Whiteheadian Process and Quantum Theory of the Mind, in: Session II Fundamental Processes