Wide studied at Johns Hopkins University (Bachelor 1920), where he received his doctorate in 1921. 1921/22, he was a National Research Fellow at the University of Leiden ( with Paul Ehrenfest ) and then at Harvard University. In 1923 he became an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota and was from 1924 to 1929 at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, DC in the department of terrestrial magnetism. In 1928 he was at the ETH Zurich. In 1929 he became a professor at New York University in 1934 at the University of Wisconsin -Madison and in 1947 at Yale University (from 1958 as Donner Professor of Physics ). From 1968 he was professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he retired in 1974.
1935/36, he was at the Institute for Advanced Study. 1940/41, he was at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory of the U.S. Navy. During World War II he was in the Manhattan Project, where Arthur Holly Compton him had initially chosen as leader. Wide resigned his position in 1942 to be succeeded by Robert Oppenheimer. He was in Chicago as coordinator of the project Fast neutrons and from 1943 to 1945 chief physicist at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Ballistiklabor the U.S. Army at the Metallurgical Laboratory.
Since 1939 he was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1964 he received the Franklin Medal in 1967 and the National Medal of Science. In 1969 he was awarded the Tom W. Bonner Prize for nuclear physics.
1927-1929, 1939-1941, 1954-1956 and 1961 to 1963 he was Associate Editor of Physical Review.
In the 1930s he worked with Eugene Wigner about resonances. The Breit-Wigner formula is named after two (wide, Wigner Capture of Slow Neutrons, Physical Review Bd.49, 1936, S.519 ).