January 8, 1923–September 23, 2004
BY STEVEN WEINBERG
BRYCE SELIGMAN DEWITT, PROFESSOR EMERITUS IN THE physics department of the University of Texas at Austin, died on September 23, 2004. His career was marked by major contributions to classical and quantum field theories, in particular, to the theory of gravitation.
DeWitt was born Carl Bryce Seligman on January 8, 1923, in Dinuba, California, the eldest of four boys. His paternal grandfather, Emil Seligman, left Germany around 1875 at the age of 17 and emigrated to California, where he and his brother established a general store in Traver. Emil married Anna Frey, a young woman who had emigrated from Switzerland at about the same time. They had 11 children, whom Anna raised in the Methodist church.
In 1921 DeWitt’s father, who had become a country doctor, married the local high school teacher of Latin and mathematics. Her ancestors were French Huguenots and Scottish Presbyterians. DeWitt was raised in the Presbyterian Church, and the only Jewish elements in his early life were the matzos that his grandfather bought around the time of Passover. DeWitt described his early exposure to religion as a boy in California in a moving memoir, “God’s Rays,” published posthumously in Physics Today. His grandmother told him that Armageddon would come in the summer of