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The Libraries Supports Digital Scholarship on Hugh Everett's "Many Worlds Theory"

The UC Irvine Libraries is pleased to announce the availability of the Hugh Everett III Manuscripts in UCIspace @ the Libraries (ucispace.lib.uci.edu/). A joint collaboration between the Libraries and Logic & Philosophy of Science Professor Jeffrey Barrett, this collection of scanned historical documents is an essential companion to Barrett's forthcoming work, The Everett Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics: Collected Works 1955 - 1980 with Commentary (Princeton University Press). Together with investigative reporter Peter Byrne, Barrett selected 229 documents that shed light on the development and reception of Hugh Everett's many worlds theory.

As a graduate student at Princeton University, Hugh Everett III developed a new way of thinking about quantum mechanics.  His thesis, The "Relative State" Formulation of Quantum Mechanics, received scant attention when published in 1957, but gained popularity in the 1970s as other scientists explained how it involved the existence of many splitting worlds.  While many disagree about how to interpret Everett's theory, there is a growing consensus that Everett's pure wave mechanics provides the best prospect for solving the infamous quantum measurement problem.

In 2007, Scientific American contacted reporter Peter Byrne to write a biography of Everett.  Byrne discovered a treasure trove of Everett's manuscripts still in the possession of his son, Mark Everett.  Byrne contacted Professor Barrett to help him make sense of the documents, and shortly thereafter Barrett secured an NSF grant to make the archive available. 

Barrett notes, "The UCIspace @ the Libraries collection contains scans of nearly everything that Everett wrote on the foundations of quantum mechanics, and it provides open access to these original documents to scholars around the world. While this collection will not solve the problem of how to best interpret Everett's theory, it does provide the definitive statement of Everett's own views in his own words."

UCIspace @ the Libraries gave Barrett confidence that the scanned materials would remain accessible for future generations. UCIspace @ the Libraries offers faculty a secure, fully searchable, persistent home for diverse kinds of digital research content. Barrett testifies, "We are very pleased with the result of this collaboration with our UC Irvine Libraries colleagues. Indeed, the online collection would not have been possible without their support and advice." 

Faculty interested in collaborating with the Libraries to publish research content online should contact Michelle Light, Head of Special Collections, Archives, and Digital Scholarship (michelle.light@uci.edu, x47193). 

 

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