, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 143–146 | Cite as

The human story behind Everettian quantum mechanics

Peter Byrne: The many worlds of Hugh Everett III: Multiple universes, mutual assured destruction, and the meltdown of a nuclear family. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 456pp, £25.00 HB
  • Alastair WilsonEmail author
Book Review

Hugh Everett III (1930–1982) was an unappealing character with a remarkable mind. His Princeton doctoral thesis on the foundations of physics transformed our understanding of quantum–mechanical reality, and he made original contributions to military operations research and to game theory. His domestic life was less inspiring; he died young after a lifetime of over-indulgence in food, alcohol, tobacco and sex, leaving behind a somewhat dysfunctional family with which he had little emotional connection.

For good reason, then, this biography by Peter Byrne focuses mainly on Everett’s work on quantum theory. Byrne’s ambition is a lofty one: to explain the ins and outs of Everettian quantum mechanics—including treatments of decoherence and of probability—without using any mathematics and while simultaneously telling a family history. Given the subtlety and difficulty of the conceptual material, he inevitably meets with limited success in explaining it unambiguously—readers totally...


  1. Beller, M. 1999. Quantum dialogue: The making of a revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Saunders, S., J. Barrett, A. Kent, and D. Wallace, eds. 2010. Many Worlds? Everett, Quantum Theory, and Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.University CollegeOxfordUK

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