Hugh Everett’s Dissertation: “The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics”

by Max Andrews

In 1956 Hugh Everett III published his Ph.D. dissertation titled “The Theory of the Universal Wave Function.”  In this paper Everett argued for the relative state formulation of quantum theory and a quantum philosophy, which denied wave collapse.  Initially, this interpretation was highly criticized by the physics community and when Everett visited Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in 1959. Bohr was unimpressed with Everett’s most recent development.[1]

In 1957 Everett coined his theory as the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics.  In an attempt to circumvent the problem of defining the mechanism for the state of collapse, Everett suggested that all orthogonal relative states are equally valid ontologically.[2]  What this means is that all possible states are true and exist simultaneously.

We have a problem of using secondary sources. I’ve provided a link below that takes you back to Everett’s original dissertation to read for ourselves.



[1] Jonathan Allday, Quantum Reality: Theory and Philosophy (Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis, 2009), 439.

[2] An orthogonal state is one that is mutually exclusive.  A system cannot be in two orthogonal states at the same time.  As a result of the measurement interaction, the states of the observer have evolved into exclusive states precisely linked to the results of the measurement.  At the end of the measurement process the state of the observer is the sum of eigenstate—or a combination of the sums of eigenstates, one sum for each possible value of the eigenvalue.  Each sum is the relative state of the observer given the value of the eigenvalue. Allday, 442-43.


8 Comments to “Hugh Everett’s Dissertation: “The Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics””

  1. well, your topic “The Theory of the Universal Wave Function.” looks quite interesting.

  2. Hello I am a theoretical physicist from Montreal, Quebec and I am looking for a second opinion. If you have the time, no pun intended, could you please let me know what you think of the following time travel theory.

    Being, that what moves through space, moves slower through time, and that what moves even faster through space, moves even slower through time, time travel should be possible. We need only employ the reverse of this phenomenon.

    The case for time travel:
    The slower a body moves through space the faster it moves through time. To completely and totally arrest a body would increase it’s passage through time. (That which cannot be used-up to move it through space increases it’s movement through time.) Even it’s natural vibrational energy would be used to increase its travel through time. You would sequentially add increasing amounts of energy at high (non-damaging) frequencies to that stationary body. This will further accelerate its propulsion through time, or into the future.

    Thanks-In-Advance
    Terry Stonefield

    • I hold that time is not simply physical but metaphysical (i.e. categories of change). Assuming your scenario, how would stop motion through space? I would suspect we could have inductive evidences from temperatures of zero Kelvin but even such particles would continue to move through space (i.e. earth’s rotation, revolution, galactic rotation, galactic neighborhood gravitational influences, and even the expansion of the universe)?

  3. If I may interject a comment on the time-travel question, I believe the central issue is the definition of time itself. From a relativity point of view, of course, we do not “travel” through time, rather, as McTaggart suspected even at the beginning of the last century, time as popularly conceived of is an illusion. We don’t travel through time, nor does time “flow” around us. Instead, time is embedded in the space-time continuum, such that our existence is already entirely contained within the continuum, described as a “life line” or more properly, a “life tube.” Since this life tube contains the entirety of our existence, everything that is going to happen to us has already happened, and all such events are as real as everything that has happened in our “past” as we perceive it. The reason we can’t see our future events, and can no longer experience our past events is simply a function of our frame of reference.

  4. Good afternoon
    I submitted a comment on this thread about “time travel” earlier today, and it was not posted. Any reason?
    Thank you

    • Hi Carlos,

      I apologize for it not showing up right away. New users need approval to post. Some often get past my spam filters. Thanks for your comments!

  5. Thank you for your response, I apologize for my too-rapid query about the posting! I must say that although I understand the relativistic concept of the life tube, and our existence already embedded in it’s totality in the fabric of space-time continuum, I don’t really understand how we progress along it’s course. Clearly, SOMETHING is moving (ie, changing frames of reference) along our life, but what, exactly, is doing the moving? Our consciousness? Well, good luck on a definition of that! Very impenetrable question, in my opinion. Anybody have any thoughts on that?

  6. Trivial comment: sorry about the inappropriate apostrophes; typing too fast!

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