Biographical sketch of hugh everett, III. Eugene Shikhovtsev

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Eugene Shikhovtsev

ul. Dzerjinskogo 11-16, Kostroma, 156005, Russia
©2003 Eugene B. Shikhovtsev and Kenneth W. Ford. All rights reserved.
Sources used for this biographical sketch include papers of Hugh Everett, III stored in the Niels Bohr Library of the American Institute of Physics; Graduate Alumni Files in Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University; personal correspondence of the author; and information found on the Internet. The author is deeply indebted to Kenneth Ford for great assistance in polishing (often rewriting!) the English and for valuable editorial remarks and additions.

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 [1]

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 [1a]

This material may be freely used for personal or educational purposes provided acknowledgement is given to Eugene B. Shikhovtsev, author (, and Kenneth W. Ford, editor ( To request permission for other uses, contact the author or editor.


Family and Childhood

Einstein letter (1943)

Catholic University of America in Washington (1950-1953). Chemical engineering.

Princeton University (1953-1956). Mathematics & Physics.

Observer(s) split(s) (1954)

After Princeton. Institute for Defense Analyses. Marriage. (1956)

Doctoral dissertation and first publication of his formulation of quantum mechanics (1957)

Bryce DeWitt letter (1957)

Daughter Liz (1957) and mathematical models (1956-1964)

Quanta of theoretical physics (1958-1960s)

Visit to Bohr. Lagrange multipliers (Spring 1959). Son Mark (1963).

Lambda Division, then Lambda Corporation. Arlington. (1964-1973).

DeWitt reminds physicists about Everett (1970s)

DBS Corporation. Don Reisler. McLean, VA (1973-1982)

World learns of MWI (1976)

Family life of the Everetts (1960s-1980s)

Everett’s businesses of the 1970s. Elaine Tsiang.

Return to QM. Austin seminar. David Deutsch (1977).

Burglary. Loss of relatives. (1977-1978)

Fame (1978-)

Liz moves to Hawaii. Hugh is planning return to QM. (1979)

First Personal Computers. (1970s)

Keith Lynch remembers 1979-1980.

Loss of father (1980). Last years (1980-1982). Posthumous.

Acknowledgements and final remarks.


Family and Childhood

On November 11, 1930, Einstein's famous essay “On Religion And Science” was published in the “Berliner Tageblatt” [1b]. On that same day Hugh M. Everett, III was born [2, 3] in Washington DC [4].

Hugh lived in Washington until he was 8 years old [5], when his family moved to the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, then still a relatively small city. Except for three years as a graduate student at Princeton University, he spent all of his life in and around Washington, DC. (Washington and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs have by now merged into a single urban complex, its parts linked by the Metro system.)

Hugh’s grandfather, Hugh Everett Sr., was a printer for the Washington Post at one time. He also owned the Terminal Press, a company where one of his sons, Charles (an uncle of Hugh Everett, III) worked until the mid-1930s. [137] (No later records of the Terminal Press have come to light. Perhaps it, like so many other companies, did not survive the Great Depression.) Hugh Everett Sr. also had two daughters, Kathryn and Virginia [137].

Hugh's father, Hugh Everett Jr. (1903-1980) was a native of Washington DC, and a graduate of the old Central High School. From 1928 to 1936, he (Hugh, Jr.) held a world rifle record at 1,000 yards [6]. For our purposes, however, it is more important that he won the heart of Katherine Kennedy, a graduate of George Washington University and a beginning writer. She became Mrs. Katharine Kennedy Everett [7] and the mother of Hugh Everett III.

In 1936, when the future shaker of the foundations of quantum physics was six and America was beginning to recover from the Great Depression, Hugh's father, opting for a military career, joined the DC National Guard [8]. Within a couple of years thereafter, Hugh's parents were divorced. Hugh subsequently did not have a good relationship with his mother. She spent some time in a mental hospital, possibly on more than one occasion [9]. She published many stories and poems in literary magazines and other publications (interestingly, metaphysics and space were among her subjects). Decades later a posthumous collection of her poetry was published in her university magazine, authorized by her son Hugh III [7].

In 1940, with war threatening, Hugh's father received his commission in the regular Army. During World War II, he served as a staff officer with Gen. Mark Clark's 5th Army in Italy [8].

Einstein letter (1943)

When he was twelve, Hugh wrote letters to Albert Einstein raising the question whether it was something random or unifying that held the universe together [5]. Einstein was kind enough to answer. In a letter dated June 11, 1943, he wrote, "Dear Hugh: There is no such thing like an irresistible force and immovable body. But there seems to be a very stubborn boy who has forced his way victoriously through strange difficulties created by himself for this purpose. Sincerely yours, A. Einstein” [12].

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