Alan Lightman(1948 - )

Alan Lightman was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1948, to Richard Lightman, a theater owner, and Jeanne Garretson, a dance instructor. From an early age he was fascinated by both the sciences and the arts, writing poetry and doing independent science projects while still in high school. After he received his Ph.D. in physics, he began publishing poetry in small literary magazines, and later, essays, which appeared in a large number of publications. His first novel, Einstein's Dreams was published in 1993. His scientific work has been principally in astrophysics: gravitation, accretion disks, stellar dynamics, radiative processes, and relativistic plasmas.

Alan Lightman has been a hero of mine since I first read Einstein's Dreams as a frosh in college. First, because he has carved out a place for himself as both a writer and a physicist, and he is respected for his abilities in both fields. In the age of specialization, such talents are rare, and public respect for that talent is even more rare. Secondly, and more importantly, he has been able to demonstrate through his work the intimate connection between the "creative arts" and the "hard sciences". Physics inspires his writing, while literature, music, and art all inspire his physics. And he shows, with a beautiful, light prose, that both fields can be aspects of the same basic drive--an appreciation for beauty, a sense of the divine in nature, and the desire to improve society through one's efforts. But he also explores the troubling side of science, the ego and bravura that dominate the field, the way that politics and profit drive the course of research, and the responsibility of science and its practitioners for the effects of their work.

Short Curriculum Vitae
A.B. Physics, Princeton University, 1970
Ph.D. Theoretical Physics, California Institute of Technology, 1974
From 1991-1997, Chair, Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, and Senior Lecturer in Physics, MIT.
Currently Adjunct Professor of Humanities. Creative Writing and Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Einstein's Dreams (1993)
Good Benito (1995)
The Diagnosis (2000)
Reunion (2003)

Essays and Fables:
Time Travel and Papa Joe's Pipe (1984)
A Modern Day Yankee in a Connecticut Court (1986)
Dance for Two (1996)
Best American Essays 2000, (Guest Editor), (2000)

Books on science:
Problem Book in Relativity and Gravitation (with W. H. Press, R. H. Price, and S. A. Teukolsky) (1975)
Radiative Processes in Astrophysics (with G. B. Rybicki) (1979)
Origins: the Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists (with R. Brawer) (1990)
Ancient Light. Our Changing View of the Universe (1991)
Great Ideas in Physics (1992, new edition in 2000)
Time for the Stars. Astronomy for the 1990s (1992)

Source: Dr. Lightman´s personal web page, at

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