Bryce DeWitt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bryce DeWitt
Bryce with his wife Cécile
Carl Bryce Seligman

January 8, 1923
DiedSeptember 23, 2004(2004-09-23) (aged 81)
Alma materHarvard University (PhD)
Known for
(m. 1951)
Scientific career
FieldsTheoretical physics
Doctoral advisorJulian Schwinger
Doctoral students
Discussion in the main lecture hall at the École de Physique des Houches (Les Houches Physics School), 1972. From left, Yuval Ne'eman, Bryce DeWitt, Kip Thorne.
Bryce S. DeWitt (center) with Grigori A. Vilkovisky (left) and Andrei O. Barvinsky (right) at the 5th Seminar on Quantum Gravity, Moscow, May 28 – June 1, 1990

Bryce Seligman DeWitt (born Carl Bryce Seligman; January 8, 1923 – September 23, 2004) was an American theoretical physicist noted for his work in gravitation and quantum field theory.[1]

Personal life[edit]

He was born Carl Bryce Seligman, but he and his three brothers, including the noted ichthyologist, Hugh Hamilton DeWitt, added "DeWitt" from their mother's side of the family, at the urging of their father, in 1950. In the early-1970s, this change of name so angered Felix Bloch that he blocked DeWitt's appointment to Stanford University and DeWitt and his wife Cecile DeWitt-Morette, a mathematical physicist, accepted faculty positions at the University of Texas at Austin.[2] DeWitt trained in World War II as a naval aviator, but the war ended before he saw combat.  He died September 23, 2004, from pancreatic cancer at the age of 81. He is buried in France, and was survived by his wife and four daughters.[3][1]

Academic life[edit]

He received his bachelor's (summa cum laude), master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. His Ph.D. (1950) supervisor was Julian S. Schwinger. Afterwards, he held a postdoctoral position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, worked at the Lawrence Livermore Lab (1952-'55), and then held faculty positions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1956-'72) and, later, the University of Texas at Austin (1973-2004). He was awarded the Dirac Prize in 1987,[4] the Pomeranchuk Prize in 2002, and the American Physical Society's Einstein Prize posthumously in 2005,[5] and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences.[6]


He pioneered work in the quantization of general relativity and, in particular, developed canonical quantum gravity, manifestly covariant methods, and heat kernel algorithms.  DeWitt formulated the Wheeler–DeWitt equation for the wave function of the universe with John Archibald Wheeler and advanced the formulation of Hugh Everett's many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.[1] With his student Larry Smarr, he originated the field of numerical relativity.[7]: 25–35, 37 


  • 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 (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, 2003, ISBN 978-0-19-851093-2.
  • Bryce DeWitt, Sopra un raggio di luce, Di Renzo Editore, Roma, 2005.
  • Bryce DeWitt, Bryce DeWitt's Lectures on Gravitation, Steven M. Christensen, ed., Springer, 2011.


  1. ^ a b c Weinberg, Steven (2008). "Bryce Seligman DeWitt 1923-2004: Biographical Memoir" (PDF). Retrieved October 7, 2023.
  2. ^ "UTPhysicsHistorySite". Archived from the original on June 20, 2019.
  3. ^ Family Obituary
  4. ^ Dirac Prize citation, International Centre for Theoretical Physics
  5. ^ Einstein Prize citation, American Physical Society
  6. ^ "DeWitt, Bryce S. (Bryce Seligman), 1923-2004". Retrieved October 7, 2023.
  7. ^ DeWitt-Morette, Cécile (2011). "Quantum Gravity". The Pursuit of Quantum Gravity: Memoirs of Bryce DeWitt from 1946 to 2004. Springer. pp. 51–117. ISBN 978-3-642-14270-3.

Further reading[edit]