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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Hugh Everett

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Interview with Dr. Hugh Everett
By Charles Misner

May 1977

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Hugh Everett; May 1977

ABSTRACT: This interview recounts the story behind Dr. Everett's "Many Worlds" theory of quamtum mechanics. The conversation matches the one transcribed in the document in the Hugh Everett Papers at the Niels Bohr Library.

Transcript

{Notes added in {such} brackets are made by Eugene Shikhovtsev on 5-7 Nov. 2000. The original for this work was a copy of the transcript from the Everett Archives of The American Institute of Physics (below — the Everett Archives), Box 1, Folder 3, obtained due to kind assistance of Assistant Archivist Katherine A. Hayes who also patiently and competently answered all my questions about unclear words and phrases in the original. The transcript presents a draft copy with typed and inscribed corrections, notes and variants made, evidently, by N.G.E. not before 1984-85. I used to keep her notes and inscriptions in [such] brackets, even in cases when she used in the transcript (such) brackets. I don’t indicate scholarly in the following version of the transcript every typist’s, N.G.E.’s or my corrections of evident misprints (scholars should study originals!). I also inserted all paragraphs. Any criticism would be highly appreciated (my address is: eshi@kmtn.ru). I am glad to devote my modest work to Hugh Everett’s 70th anniversary, Nov. 11, 2000.}

[pg 8 on send to Tulane fellow {?}, Tipler {inscribed by N.G.E. (Frank J. Tipler from Tulane Univ. wrote a request of 23 Aug. ‘83, answered by N.G.E. on 10 Oct. ’83: see the Everett Archives, Box 1, Folder 9) – E.Sh.}]

[Testing, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — testing, testing, testing.

Everett:

I’ve got to get a drink before I can talk with you.] {These two lines are cancelled in the draft version of the page 1 of the transcript and are absent from the edited version of the page 1 (the transcript contains both versions of the page 1). Following pages were not edited. — E.Sh.}

Misner:

Well, it's been a great evening, I enjoyed spending our — ah —18th anniversary with you, Hugh. I think, Misner means 18th anniversary of his marriage: cp. below on page 2: evidence of Suzanne’s Misner presence; on page 8: one more mention of the marriage date. — E.Sh.: Why don't you lead on after your drink by telling us how you got started with John Wheeler.

Everett:

Well, I got started...

Misner:

Whatever made you decide to pick him for a thesis advisor?

Everett:

Well, actually, I didn't. Somebody assigned him to me, I think, and I needed one to get my fellowship renewed.

Misner:

Right — so it was all bureaucracy...

Everett:

That's correct. My first year was actually spent in the Mathematics Department. In the list of the Faculty Advisors for Graduate Students of Department of Physics, dated September 1954, there are listed: students by Shoemaker — Christensen, Everett, Macrae; students by Wheeler — Chase, Cookson, Dempster, Komar; students by Wightman — Bennett, Khuri, Misner, Wellner (The Everett Archives, Box 1, Folder 5). — E.Sh.

Misner:

When did you get on to, ah, weird Quantum Mechanics?

Everett:

Oh, it was because of you and Aäge Petersen (from Denmark), one night at the Graduate College after a slosh or two of sherry, as you might recall. You and Aäge were starting to say some ridiculous things about the implications of Quantum Mechanics and I was having a little fun joshing you and telling you some of the outrageous implications of what you said, and, ah, as we had a little more sherry and got a little more potted... in the conversation. Don't you remember, Charlie? You were there!

Misner:

I don’t remember that evening actually, but I do remember that Aäge Petersen was around — that's entirely possible.

Everett:

You had too much sherry.

Misner:

Was that after I was starting on the [Rainich — E.Sh.] Theory? [Sounds like Range or Rains or Rienish or Reins or Graves or Grange — nge [it seems to be Rainich (see below, on my notes to pages 2, 4, 5, 6 of the transcript) — E.Sh.}] which was known as the [Rainich — E.Sh.] Theory at that time because....

Everett:

Oh, I remember that... yes that was that same ….

Misner:

You read his book [it seems to be Rainich, G. Y. Mathematics of Relativity, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1950) — E.Sh.] and told us, "Look, this was a great idea — why didn't he stop there instead of going on to finish the job?"

Everett:

I do remember that, yes. Whatever happened to that, I wonder.

Misner:

Well, we eventually decided to go on and finish the job.

Everett:

How did it come out?

Misner:

Well, only many years later we discovered — well, actually not so many years later, but actually Peter Berman [sp.?] {it should be Peter G. Bergmann  wrote us a letter and said, "Look, it's not in his book, but actually in some other publications, he did all this stuff that you wrote and had in your thesis, Misner."

Everett:

(laugh) — Why didn't he publish it?

Misner:

He did, but in some obscure place.

Everett:

I see.

Misner:

So I had to do something else for my thesis instead of [Rainich (in the transcript: “Graves? Rains? Reinish?” — E.Sh.)] Theory.

Everett:

I never knew that.

Misner:

Yeah, I spent all those years on that and eventually had to go back and turn out something on final quantumization…

Everett:

I had to study for Generals — that's what happened to me — I had to study for Generals, so I couldn't follow any of that up.

Misner:

Hmm, didn't you take generals when I did?

Everett:

No, I took them a year later.

Misner:

You did; I see.

Everett:

I think, let's see. Yeah, yeah, right. It was the Army-McCarthy hearings [April 23 — June 17, 1954. — E.Sh.] as I recollect…  I did not that year,

Misner:

Oh, I remember, I was freely watching them all, spent all my... watched them

Everett:

but you had to occasionally study and couldn't watch all of them, right?

Misner:

Oh, I (?) in the morning when I went to class. Yeah. 

Misner:

[sic. — E. Sh.] — I must have gone at least once a week to Barton's [Barton, D.H.R.? (He was Special Lecturer in the College of Science, Univ. of Notre Dame, Illinois, in 1949). — E. Sh.] class.
[H & C laugh.]

Everett:

Once a week! All right, yeah. Oh, goodness.

Misner:

That's just to show you that Notre Dame is so much better [?] than Catholic University, I had [?] all I needed to pass generals from Notre Dame, so I had to study. [?]

Everett:

That's true, I had to I guess, or at least I thought I had to. [Laugh. Sigh.]
[Nancy {Everett. — E.Sh.} or Suzanne [Misner. — E.Sh.] — ask about Wheeler.]

Everett:

How did Wheeler get into this? How did you pick Wheeler?

Misner:

How did I pick Wheeler? Well, I picked Wheeler because after spending the Army-McCarthy hearings studying for generals, or the other way around, ah, I decided I should, because they told me I should find a thesis advisor, and I had been working with Whiteman, huh-hum-hum, so I first went to Whiteman, huh-huh, and he unfortunately was an honest man and said “I'd be delighted to have you for a thesis student; I have a lot of interesting things to do, but you probably should take notice that of my last three students, none of them has got their PhD in less than seven years”.

Everett:

You know Charlie, much the same happened to me: Now I forgot who gave me advice like that but somebody said something much the same as that — "You can get out quicker with Wheeler" [laugh]. Let's see, who that was, I wonder, hmm.

Misner:

So anyway, when I went around to talk to John Wheeler he had all kinds of wonderful ideas, all of them — i.e., nebulas going off into the mysteries of the universe, and anything I wanted to do was just so exciting that he couldn't possibly restrain himself and ah it seemed that everything's possible and I may as well do it quickly and get finished and solve the problems of the universe easily at the same time!

Everett:

What year was Aäge there?

Misner:

I don't remember when Aäge was there.

Everett:

Was that our first year? I believe it was.

Misner:

My first year was '53 -'54.

Everett:

We were both there in the same year.

Misner:

That's right. We were roommates together. [inscribed by N.G.E. Cf. some lines below — E.Sh.]

Everett:

That's right.

Misner:

We had for some reason…

Everett:

well, that was later, I think. Let's see, at first…

Misner:

We had this luxurious room, remember, a whole suite, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a little sitting room in the Graduate College — I had never lived in such luxury before in my life. We were down on the first floor in the Graduate College someplace.

Everett:

That was you and Harvey [Arnold].

Misner:

Oh, was that right?

Everett:

Yeah.

Misner:

Oh, that's right.

Everett:

It was me and Hale [Trotter].

Misner:

So the four of us all got mixed together...

Everett:

right, that was in the third year.

Misner:

Yeah.

Everett:

Right ...so that's the second and first year...

Misner:

So then we had...O.K. Yeah, you ‘were....

Everett:

I keep trying to pin down when Aäge was there, ‘cuz that's ...boy, hmm,

Misner:

well,… trying to bring back ancient days...

Everett:

I know, I know. We can probably pin it down. Well, anyway, the whole business started with those discussions, and my impression is I went to Wheeler then later and said “hey, how about this, is this the thing to do”, I walked [?] up to Wheeler.

Misner:

You already had some Game Theory going, is that right?

Everett:

Oh, yeah. I had to do that to get my NSF...

Misner:

I think you had some publications coming up...

Everett:

...I had no hope in the Physics Dept. in my first year because nobody knew me, so I did something in mathematics... well, I got it renewed.

Misner:

Yeah.

Everett:

Well, hmmm. Gosh!

Misner:

I don't know how much I did with Wheeler the first year, I can't remember that at all, but I must have seen him occasionally — I don't know whether I took the relativity... he was... I know, the year before I came he taught a Relativity course and he took all his students, including Eric Komar [spelling corresponds to one given in the list of students (see my note to page 1). — E.Sh.],

Everett:

Yeah, I heard about that.

Misner:

to Spain (?) to visit  (?) , and I missed that and I always thought that was one of the great catastrophes of my life. But I suppose he must have taught relativity again. Did you have relativity from him that first year you were there?

Everett:

Hmm.

Misner:

He taught it that year... I suppose he taught it the next year, but I'm not sure.

Everett:

I think it was all about GEEONS or something like that.

Misner:

Oh, of course it was about GEEONS, yeah. We certainly heard enough seminars about GEEONS and whatnot.

Everett:

and WORMHOLES, we certainly heard about WORMHOLES.

Misner:

Yes, and I was learning all kinds of mathematics from Hale Trotter — of course we always went to Mathematics Tea — well there only was one …

Everett:

There only was one Tea...

Misner:

everyone went there, and that's where I learned all kinds of fancy mathematics. Of course I had a big start at Notre Dame from Arnold Ross who was the mathematics chairman there [the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. —  E.Sh.]. He had me through half of Boor-Bocky [in the transcript note: spelling?]. It should be Nicholas Bourbaki — E.Sh.} and things like that while I was an undergraduate. But I remember Hale [Trotter — E.Sh.] and various mathematicians were helping me with ultra raved [in the transcript note: spelling?]; I suggest here should be “algebraic” — E.Sh. topology and this, that and the other thing.

Everett:

I remember the day when we thought that elementary particles would be obviously the way different knots would be knotted in multiple-connected space and we went over there and said all we've got to know is the classification of knots and we'll have the answer — they weren’t able to help us. Remember that?

Misner:

I don't remember that, but I do remember lots of discussions about knots....

Everett:

Hale [Trotter — E.Sh.] got into that.

Misner:

Wasn't Milner [?] [I suggest here is meant Milnor, John W. — E.Sh.] solving some knot problems in undergraduate... shortly before or after that — various people were full of knot theory.

Everett:

Yes, whatever happened to knot theory?

Misner:

I think all the problems got solved.

Everett:

Oh. I thought they were undecidable or something.

Misner:

Oh well that's a solution, you should know with your work… [the last word inscribed by N.G.E. — E.Sh.]

Everett:

Oh yes, right. 

Misner:

The word problem got solved while I was there.

Everett:

My problem was solved?

Misner:

Yes, that's right... 

Everett:

There was also this Russian who… [Hardly here is meant again Rainich, George Yuri: 1886-1968, a Russian immigrant from the first world-war, prominent mathematician from Michigan University — [E.Sh. — I think it was parallel solutions or something like that (pause) at least, an empty interval without dots in the transcript. —  Goodness. (pause?) again the same. — E.Sh.] I am trying to remember the exact history of that and I can't. I know that it really stemmed from that night with the really fun discussions with Aäge — flushing out the paradox.

Misner:

I don't really know which year he was there.

Everett:

I believe it was our first year. [53-54 {added in margin by N.G.E. — E.Sh.] I'm not sure of that could have been the second. 

Misner:

When did Einstein give his seminar, that was about our third [first, maybe added in margin by N.G.E. (On April 15, 1955 Einstein was transported to hospital and died on April 18, 1955) — E.Sh.}] year there? [was last year (inscribed by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] no...

Everett:

I don't recollect.

Misner:

Cuz that was an… occasion, — remember that? — when we arranged for Einstein to give a seminar at the University and I don't think he'd given one before...

Everett:

I don't think I attended.

Misner:

Sure you did, I remember you were there.

Everett:

Really, what did he say? I don't remember it.

Misner:

Well maybe that's true — maybe I had to take notes and try to tell you — no, I would have thought you were there.

Everett:

I sure don't remember it, and I think I would have… [Laugh]
[Change of reel or something]

Misner:

...

Everett:

I know nothing about this whatsoever! I'm outraged! Ha! Heh, heh. Where was I? Was it on a weekend?

Misner:

I can't remember, I doubt it. It was a Tuesday night or something like that.

Everett:

Maybe I was in Trenton, I don't know. Whatever that one was, I was somewhere else. I don't know. {Perhaps “Whatever that one was, I don't know. I was somewhere else.” (signs for inscription “I was somewhere else” made twice). Yet maybe second sign means a pause or indistinct word(s). — E.Sh.}

Misner:

I doubt I have any notes on it, maybe I was actually trying to remember a few of the things he said to carry them on to you because he made some remarks about the temptation of quantum mechanics — he wasn't quite as determined about classical interpretations as he had been in the famous debates and things like that. You know, he admitted that quantum mechanics was certainly correct in all its predictions...

Everett:

…cleaned.

Misner:

Yeah, but he was shaken from the kind of uncleanness he worried about in his debates with Bohr and he felt that he had a basic solidity, anything that he did to it would have to recognize that some of the great things he said were verifiable.

Everett:

Hmmm. Right. Somewhat restricts your possibilities of getting out. Well, I don't know.

Misner:

Which year was it that I went to Leyden [Belgium [inscripted by N.G.E. — E.Sh.]] with Wheeler? Was that our second year there, it probably was. I would think that's right.

Everett:

I don't remember — oh, I do remember you’re going to Leyden. Were you a senior? [The words “a senior” are cancelled but then seem to be restored by N.G.E. — E.Sh.]

Misner:

It was a spring term and Joe Webber {definitely Joseph Weber — E.Sh.}, Peter Putnam and I all tagged along with John Wheeler for a semester when he was “visiting or … [a word “Flemish?” is inscribed by N.G.E. — E.Sh.]   Professor at Leyden.” [Belgium]

Everett:

Well, hmmm. What was I doing during that time?

Misner:

Maybe you were studying for generals.

Everett:

Maybe he wasn't even my professor then.

Misner:

That's possible.

Everett:

Who was? I had somebody else in my first year. For the life of me I can't remember how the hell I got connected with Wheeler. Somebody advised me that I ought to get connected to him.

Misner:

You probably already had these quantum mechanical ideas and just needed someone to talk to about them and he was obviously the kind of person who…

Everett:

I have that slight impression, but I can't be sure.

Misner:

We may have started — no — in Leyden I was already working on these Reinish (sp.) [it seems to be Rainich, G. Y. [see my note on page 1 of the transcript) — E.Sh.]  ideas which you had proposed. You found Reinish's book {it seems to be Rainich, G. Y. Mathematics of Relativity, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1950 (see my note on page 1 of the transcript) — E.Sh.} and he said that algebraically the Maxwell tensor [?] can be expressed in terms of the....

Everett:

O.K., that was indeed in our second year I think, I have that feeling.

Misner:

That's probably true.

Everett:

I remember that Christmas vacation that I was home I played around with that and then I had to drop it I felt because I really had to work on the generals for that spring. So that was the second year.

Misner:

You talked to me about it so I began taking it up with Wheeler and we followed it out at Leyden, which would have been my second year, spring '54-55.

Everett:

O.K., O.K., so maybe it was that I wasn't doing anything... oh, all right, so that started in the second year, hmm.

Misner:

So that would be...

Everett:

Cuz I think that pre-dated me, quantum mechanics, uh, I think. 

Misner:

Fall of '55, maybe, when I [yes {inscribed in margin by N.G.E. — E.Sh.}] was back.., uhm...

Everett:

Uh, noooo, no, no no — cuz I had the whole thing written by the fall [(during?) inscribed in margin by N.G.E. — E.Sh.}] of '55, [well — yes (inscribed above the line by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] that whole document was done,

Misner:

[empty interval in the transcript. — E.Sh.]

Everett:

Yeah

Misner:

at the end of your second year?

Everett:

Yeah. As a matter of fact, it was somewhat embarrassing because I had most of it written

Misner:

[sign of an empty interval in the transcript (inscribed by N.G.E. above four dots). — E.Sh.]

Everett:

... the real embarrassment was that Wheeler at one point was threatening to get me my PhD before the third [55-56 (inscribed above the line by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] year had run out, and as you remember, the draft was still in force in those days and the last thing in the world I wanted to do was do that. No, that thing was written in the winter of [some as fall (inscribed in margin by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)]  '55 [—‘56 (inscribed above the line by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)], or at least the first draft [yes (inscribed above the line by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] of it was. No, it was third [last {inscribed above the line by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] year, '55-'56 was third year. He was threatening.... So anyway, he was threatening to get me out in mid-term [Jan. 56 [inscribed above the line by N.G.E. — E.Sh.] of the third year and that did not coincide at all with my plans, especially given the draft situation at that time. So that was in the third [last (inscribed above the line by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] year... 

Misner:

so that was… your involvement in the spring of '56.

Everett:

Uhh, somewhere in the second year I got involved with him; I had no involvement whatsoever in my first year.

Misner:

That was the same year I was in Leyden. It was the late part of the [1st (inscribed above the line by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] year that you must have been talking with him because....

Everett:

Maybe it was... it very well... in fact it probably was because I did nothing but study for generals and things like that in the second half of that year [‘54 (inscribed above the line by N.G.E. (in the line she had printed in brackets “’55”, but cancelled and inscribed “4?”) — E.Sh.] so, I…

Misner:

... second half of that year you were probably talking with him.

Everett:

Well, maybe so.

Misner:

Because I certainly was talking to him a bit about the Ranger sp. [It seems to be Reinich (see my note on page 1 of the transcript. — E.Sh.)] stuff, although I...

Everett:

O.K., so when did the quantum thing... cuz I must have talked to him some, and, I certainly you know, that summer is when I wrote really, really when I was writing that first thing and Nance was typing it and everything else and the whole thing was ready by that autumn and that winter, which is what caused the threat! In the Everett Archives (Box 1, Folder 5) there is a note by Wheeler dated 21 Sept. 1955 where Wheeler writes to Everett: “I would very much like to discuss these two important papers with you. The correlation one seems to be practically ready to publish — where would you publish it? As for the 2nd one, I am frankly bashful about showing it to Bohr in its present form, valuable & important as I consider it to be, because of parts subject to mystical misinterpretations by too many unskilled readers. I would welcome the chance to discuss this with you Mon. — 1.30 if you have lunch engagements then, 12.30 otherwise — if you are free. Let me know if this is convenient.” The Monday should be 26 Sept. 1955. Two papers mentioned seems to be: “Quantitative Measure of Correlation” and “Probability in Wave Mechanics” (ibid., Box 1, Folder 6). The second paper seems to be the first approach to “relative states” formulation. Both papers are unpublished, as well as the third one from Folder 6 — “Objective vs. Subjective probability”. Full-length paper about “relative states” (ibid., Box 1, Series II, Folder 1) is dated Jan. 1956 (see preface note in Everett’s unpublished thesis — ibid., Box 1, Folder 8). — E.Sh.}

Misner:

Did we spend only one year in the Graduate College, then? [James Thorpe, Assistant Dean of the Princeton Univ. Graduate School, informed Everett about his having been readmitted for 1954-55 on April 30, 1954 using the address: 7-C, Graduate College. (The Everett Archives, Box 1, Folder 5). — E.Sh.]

Everett:

We spent two years in the Graduate College. It was in our third [last {inscribed in margin by N.G.E. — E.Sh.}] year that we were in Linden Lane.

Misner:

But then, I have to get that straight, because it was certainly our [the {inscribed above the word “our” by N.G.E. — E.Sh.}] year in Linden Lane that I started taking Dutch lessons with Renée Franklin, the Dutch girl, remember…

Everett:

Yes, so maybe you didn't go to Leyden till then!

Misner:

That's right.

Everett:

A ha! That makes a lot more sense.

Misner:

O.K. So that's how it was.

Everett:

All right, so it happened in the second year and the only question is where and what. That must have been when Aäge was there.

Misner:

Did we room together in the second [1954-5 (inscribed in margin by N.G.E. — E.Sh.) year, is that possible?

Everett:

Ahh, no! The first year I roomed with an English man and you were with Harvey Arnold, down on that first floor by the passageway.

Misner:

Maybe you were in the second year too. In the second year I roomed with Hale {Trotter. — E.Sh.}. And in the third year all four of us roomed together in Linden Lane.

Everett:

All right, so what exactly happened in that second year? I guess we conclude that that's when Aäge was there.

Misner:

Yeah. Must've been. One of those summers, probably (Eugene. — E.Sh.) Wigner had arranged for me to get a job at Bell Labs.

Everett:

Yeah.

Misner:

One summer I had a job at Bell Labs. Whether that was the first summer or the second, I'm not sure.

Everett:

All right, the Reinich [(spelling) inscribed above the name by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)]  business was the second year.

Misner:

Probably got straight [? (inscribed above the word by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)]  the second year.

Everett:

I remember working one Christmas [1954 Xmas + 1955 (inscribed in margin by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] at home, actually calculating Christ-awful symbols. [Guffaws]

Misner:

I would allow that the second year for me to have had a course with John (Wheeler. — E.Sh.) on relativity.

Everett:

O.K., and I don't think I had that course, that year, or…

Misner:

or maybe I never took it actually, because I had a course at Notre Dame, so I may have thought I didn't have to take one at Maryland [sic] [Freudian slip] I might have just joined his lunch group, you know, and talked with people in his office. He used to have gangs playing (?) games? (inscribed by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)]  in his office for brown bag lunches or for discussions or something. I might have joined that group without partaking taking part in the....

Everett:

I was very much out of that group. I remember... that's probably why I didn't get invited to the —Einstein thing. (Laugh) Well, it went something like this: We’d had those discussions with Aäge and all that, and somehow, I don't yet know, I got connected with Wheeler or whatnot. “The question is of the thesis topic”, you know, “what about looking into this mess here”, you know, “there's an obvious inconsistency in the theory” [What theory? Whose? (note by N.G.E. to the underlined words “the theory”. — E.Sh.)] or whatever I thought of it then.

Misner:

It's strange that he [Wheeler (inscribed above “he” by N.G.E.; she had further added but then bracketed: [((or Aäge?) no)”. — E.Sh.)] would be so interested in it — all in all, because it certainly went against the normal tenants of his great master, Bohr. [Aäge represented Bohr's thoughts (inscribed in the margin by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)]

Everett:

Well, he still feels that way a little bit, even as recently as last month [May, 1977 (inscribed below “month” by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] in Austin he [Wheeler (inscribed above “he” by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] was a little bit that way...

Misner:

How'd he work that out because he certainly had great respect for Bohr.

Everett:

Oh yes, indeed.

Misner:

  But he was always intrigued by his advocacy [(a word “adgency” inscribed above “advocacy” by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] of ideas — He tried to get you and Bohr to agree.

Everett:

Yes, I spent six weeks, as you know, you were there, and that was a hell of a ...doomed from the beginning...

Misner:

(?)

Everett:

... the battles of 1925 or something.

Misner:

You didn't get the chance to say something and he would relight his pipe seventeen times, — that was marvelous that you could make that attempt — I don't know how old he was at the time — [1959? (Bohr was born on October 7, 1885. — E.Sh.)]

Everett:

Well, you know what really came out of that trip to Copenhagen was the invention of the LaGrange Multiplier. [In the Everett Archives (Box 1, Folder 8) there is a 5-pages note by Everett addressed to unidentified Bob containing the description of the LaGrange Multiplier idea. In the note (written on sheets with mark “Hotel Østerport”) Everett writes: “I’ll be here till about 21 April.” — E.Sh.]

Misner:

For what?

Everett:

No reason — it's not relevant to Physics... why it was on the record? — It was the truly great accomplishment of that Copenhagen trip, though; it made Lambda Corporation and several other things.

Misner:

Which year was that Copenhagen trip?

Everett:

That was 1959, six weeks,

Misner:

the year we [Charlie and Suzanne] married, [here N.G.E. inserts “E:”, but it seems to be mistake. — E.Sh.] because we went over on one of the earliest Pan Am jets.

Everett:

Oh, my goodness.

Misner:

Well, Wheeler certainly kept at it once he got into it.

Everett:

Yuh.

Misner:

I'm sure he would have been happy if he [you (typed over “he”, “he” being not cancelled. — E.Sh.)] had heard his professored [?] your [garbled (inscribed in margin by N.G.E. — E.Sh.)] viewpoint, or at least not have two people used listened to favorably disagreeing...

Everett:

Yes, well you should have been in Austin a month ago. This was on human consciousness — whether computers are conscious and so on. His [ (inscribed over “His”. — E.Sh.)] work was quite relevant — Wheeler actually read it before the assembled multitudes and all that. Then, at your place last week, he [Wheeler {inscribed over “he” by N.G.E. — E.Sh.}] confessed, he actually now believes it, (pause) except on Tuesdays, once a month, — he said he feels he really has to reserve one day a week to disbelieve in it and so he…

Misner:

I see, well that's a good perception. Most things that he's in doubt about he has a Monday, Wednesday, Friday ….

Everett:

Ohhhhhhhhh, O.K. Yes, right. Yes, he believes in being very conservative I really think, for somebody with such far-out ideas as Wheeler has, to call himself a conservative.

Misner:

Oh, well, at first, Dynamic Conservativism, — wasn't that his battle cry when he was trying to sell GEEONS originally?  The only thing revolutionary about this is that I want to leave [(believe?) (typed over “to leave”. — E.Sh.)] the equations and see what they switch to.

Everett:

Yes, that's right...

Misner:

What are you going to do about it?

Everett:

That's right. Yes, marvelous concept. Well, that's what I did in Quantum Mechanics, too — perhaps that's where it came from, that same idea. Let's just believe the basic equations — what's this extra jazz for? So you do get a weird and funny picture.

Misner:

That's certainly what he was doing when he... well, you recall KOOKLEBLINTZES (this spelling is chosen in the transcript after rejection previous “KU-KU blintzes”, “KuGooblintzes”, “Kookleblintzes”; all being typed. — E.Sh.) the year before I came there, maybe my first year there —

Everett:

Oh, yes.

Misner:

He gave a presidential address to the Physical Society about KOOKLEBLINTZES but then they eventually became GEEONS, and that even got threatened shortly thereafter when he got a letter from General Electric Company saying that the GEON was their trademark for Freeon [GEON is a Registered Trademark of B.F.Goodrich. — E.Sh.]

Everett:

Oh-oh! HA, ha!

Misner:

and if he wished to use the word FREEON would he please acknowledge their copyright.

Everett:

Back to KOOKLEBLINTZES.

Misner:

I guess that was somehow resolved without extensive payments from the Friends of Elementary Particle Physics. Did you ever benefit from the Friends of Elementary Particle Physics?

Everett:

Not knowingly. What....

Misner:

Well, they were a Princeton benefactor…

Everett:

A subversive Mafia-like organization?

Misner:

Oh, no, various people who always seemed to be students of Wheeler's.

Everett:

Uh huh!

Misner:

I must have gotten sent to a Physical Society meeting from Leyden or Dutrech or the like or I don't know what...

Everett:

I never went anywhere!

Misner:

Two persons [? — these two words inscribed by N.G.E. above the empty interval; I am not sure I read the second word right. — E.Sh.] came up from Italy to visit Wheeler in Leyden after their generosity and there were various other people who benefited from the Friends of Elementary Particle Physics which seemed to be an account at Princeton that Wheeler....

Everett:

Now you tell me! I never got any of this largesse, which I know of.

Misner:

Maybe he figured your father was too rich....

Everett:

My father was an Army Colonel, not rich!

Misner:

But suspicion gradually dawned on most graduate students that the Friends consisted primarily of John.

Everett:

Oh, really?

Misner:

Yuh.

Everett:

Ah, Huh! Gee whiz. [Maybe: Jesus. — E.Sh.] Well, I didn't know anything about that.

Misner:

He was preaching this idea that you ought to just look at the equations and if there were the fundamentals of physics, why you followed their conclusions and give them a serious hearing. He was doing that on these solutions of Einstein's equations like Wormholes and Geeons.

Everett:

I've got to admit that; that is right, and might very well have been totally instrumental in what happened.

Misner:

He encouraged you to follow up on his, uh

Everett:

obviously ridiculous!

Misner:

argument that was only intended to shut up obstreperous friends like me (and Cole Moore) and Aäge Petersen.

Everett:

Yuh, right.

Misner:

I can't think I ever had very many serious thoughts about basic quantum mechanics, but of course [without first? (variants inscribed by N.G.E. above “of course”. — E.Sh.)] Petersen...

Everett:

Yeh, none of us really took it seriously at the time, except for Aäge, of course.

Misner:

Oh, actually I went through a very strange experience… I don't know whether you went through it, but I certainly did, as an undergraduate getting taught by people who had learned quantum mechanics in the thirties [‘30’s (inscribed by N.G.E. above “thirties”. — E.Sh.)]. And to them, quantum mechanics was really a big philosophical change, and they were shocked by the whole ideas and so forth. And somehow we were…

Everett:

didn't seem all that funny {?}

Misner:

... and felt that well, you know, every new course in Physics you get some new kind of nonsense which seems to make sense a little bit later so, Q. M. is no worse than electromagnetic fields, or F = MA, or whatever it might be.

Everett:

Yuh, electro-magnetism is still mysterious. [Laughter.] Well, goodness, I don't know.

Misner:

Well, how did John pick you up; I mean, you had these ideas that stirred up in general conversation and you began to work out the more of the detailed mathematics of it. Where did John begin to play a role in the whole affair? Did you have a whole thesis written before you talked to him?

Everett:

No, no. That's the part I can't quite bring back. I mean, we did have a conversation or two, and uh... Yeah, I guess... no, uh, he did indeed play a role; it's coming back now. You know, I said 'there's obviously something wrong here.' I showed the paradoxes and whatnot; that 'something should be done to change it.' He did keep saying 'Why?' you know, his ultimate conservatism, as he put it, kept coming through, you know, 'Why, why?'

Misner:

He kept saying "Well, maybe it's right," [?] or…

Everett:

Well, he kept doing funny little experiments with balls running down inclined slopes or something, I never quite got the gist of what they were but... I can't put my finger on it on where or when...

Misner:

At least a very important influence was to always point out possible opposite solutions that were so far-fetched that you felt you had to put Johnny on the straight and narrow track and sort of ... [Hugh's laughter] catch... and show him how this was the way Physics was really done...

Everett:

Yes, uh, huh.

Misner:

and he was always off in the wild, blue yonder... that was stretching your imagination and not allowing you to ever do any mundane problems. But, you evidentially [eventually? (inscribed by N.G.E. above “evidentally” (sic). — E.Sh.)] might have had a chance of being one ahead of him on this kind of stuff. Did he have the same attitude towards you? I mean, did he try to make you think more exotically, or was he helping you focus down towards the real test [text {typed above “test”. — E.Sh.)] of the questions?

Everett:

Well, I don't know what to say about that. In any interaction both sides focus and do... very, very hard to untangle…"We're going to run out"