Bryce DeWitt

Bryce Seligman DeWitt
Born January 8, 1923
Dinuba, California
Died September 23, 2004(2004-09-23) (aged 81)
Austin, Texas
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Theoretical physicist
Institutions Institute for Advanced Study
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Texas at Austin
Alma mater Harvard University
Doctoral advisor Julian Schwinger
Doctoral students Donald Marolf
Notable awards Dirac Prize (1987)
Pomeranchuk Prize (2002)
Einstein Prize (2005)
Spouse Cécile DeWitt-Morette
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 (January 8, 1923 – September 23, 2004) was an American theoretical physicist who studied gravity and field theories.


He was born Carl Bryce Seligman but he and his three brothers added "DeWitt" from their mother's side of the family, at the urging of their father in 1950, after Bryce experienced anti-semitism as a "budding young scientist in Europe" (Seligman is a Jewish name; ethnically Bryce is part Jewish).[1] This is similar to Spanish naming customs, where a person bears two surnames, one being from their father and the other from their mother. Twenty years later this change of name is rumored to have so angered Felix Bloch that he blocked DeWitt's appointment to Stanford University and DeWitt instead moved to Austin, Texas.[2][3] He served in World War II as a naval aviator. He was married to mathematical physicist Cécile DeWitt-Morette. 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.


He approached the quantization of general relativity, in particular, developed canonical quantum gravity and manifestly covariant methods that use the heat kernel. B. DeWitt formulated the Wheeler–DeWitt equation for the wavefunction of the Universe with John Archibald Wheeler and advanced the formulation of the Hugh Everett's many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. With his student Larry Smarr he originated the field of numerical relativity.

He received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. His Ph.D. (1950) supervisor was Julian S. Schwinger. Afterwards he worked at the Institute for Advanced Study, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Texas at Austin. He was awarded the Dirac Prize in 1987, the American Physical Society's Einstein Prize in 2005, and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.



  1. Vona DeWitt Smith, Tierck Clafsen DeWitt and Descendants of His Son Luycas DeWitt, Trafford Publishing, 2004, p. 198.
  2. DeWitt-Morette, Cécile (2011). "Chapter V". The Pursuit of Quantum Gravity: Memoirs of Bryce DeWitt from 1946 to 2004. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 128; hbk

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