Alan Paige Lightman is an American physicist, writer, and social entrepreneur. He has served on the faculties of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is currently professor of the practice of the humanities at MIT. He is widely known as the author of the international bestseller Einstein's Dreams. Einstein's Dreams has been adapted into dozens of independent theatrical productions and is one of the most widely used "common books" on college campuses. Lightman's novel The Diagnosis was a finalist for the National Book Award. Lightman was the first professor at MIT to receive a joint appointment in the sciences and the humanities. He is the recipient of five honorary degrees. He is also the founder of the Harpswell Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance a new generation of women leaders in Southeast Asia.
|Born||November 28, 1948|
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
|Alma mater||Princeton University (A.B.)|
California Institute of Technology (Ph.D.)
|Institutions||Professor of the Practice of the Humanities, MIT|
Director of Harpswell Foundation
Lightman was born into a white, upper-middle-class, Jewish family in Memphis, Tennessee and grew up there during the racially divided and inflamed 1950s and 1960s.
His paternal great grandfather, Joseph, immigrated from Hungary to the U.S. in 1880 and settled in Nashville. Uneducated, “Papa Joe Lightman” started a stone quarry and construction business and built some of the prominent public buildings in Nashville. Papa Joe’s son, M.A., Lightman's paternal grandfather, started buying movie theaters in the South in 1916, during the silent-film era, and eventually created a movie theater circuit spanning half a dozen southern states. M.A. was a larger than life figure. At age forty three, he swam across the Mississippi River. For a number of years, he was president of the Motion Picture Theater Owners of America. He also devoted himself to civic action and, among many other activities, was president of the Jewish Welfare Fund and head of fund raising for the all-black Collins Chapel Hospital in Memphis. M.A.’s wife, Celia, graduated from the University of Kentucky in Lexington and was well read and kept many books in the house. Lightman’s maternal grandfather, David Garretson, dropped out of school in the eighth grade to support his family after his father died at a young age. David began sweeping the floors of the Crescent Box Factory in New Orleans and eventually rose to become owner and president of the factory. David’s wife, Hattie Levy, was graduated from Wellesley College in 1920 and, for years, would mail young Alan a scrap of paper each week with an obscure new vocabulary word for him to look up and report back to her.
Lightman’s father, Richard, second son of M.A., was intellectually and artistically inclined. He worked as a businessman in the movie theater business started by his father. In the early 1960s, Richard played a key role in the civil rights movement by being the first movie theater owner in Memphis to integrate his theaters, only the second business of any kind to do so in that pivotal city. Lightman’s mother, Jeanne, was a ballroom dance teacher and also a volunteer Braille typist, making books available to the blind.
Much of the above family history can be found in Lightman's memoir Screening Room.
From an early age, Lightman was interested in both science and the arts. While in high school, he began independent science projects and writing poetry. His combination of talents in both science and creative writing drew attention as he won city and statewide science fairs as well as won the statewide creative writing competition from the National Council of Teachers of English. He graduated from White Station High School in Memphis. Lightman received his AB degree in physics from Princeton University in 1970, magna cum laude, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and won the Kusaka Memorial Prize in Physics for his senior thesis.
In 1976, Lightman married Jean Greenblatt (now going by the name Jean Lightman), a painter and the first female president of the Boston Guild of Artists in that organization's 100+ year history. Alan and Jean have two daughters, Elyse and Kara.
Lightman earned his PhD in theoretical physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1974, where he had received a National Science Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship. His thesis advisor was relativist Kip Thorne, who won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics. From 1974 to 1976, Lightman was a postdoctoral fellow in astrophysics at Cornell University. He became an Assistant Professor of astronomy at Harvard University from 1976 to 1979 and from 1979 to 1989 a research scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In 1989, Lightman was appointed professor of science and writing and senior lecturer in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was the first professor at MIT to receive a joint appointment in science and the humanities. In 1995, he was appointed John Burchard Professor of Humanities at MIT, a position that he resigned in 2002 to allow himself more time for writing. In the late 1990s, Lightman chaired a committee at MIT that established a new Communication Requirement requiring each undergraduate to have a writing and speaking course each of his or her four years at MIT. He currently teaches at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as Professor of the Practice of the Humanities.
In his scientific work, Lightman has made fundamental contributions to the theory of astrophysical processes under extreme temperatures and densities. In particular, his research has focused on relativistic gravitation theory, the structure and behavior of accretion disks, stellar dynamics, radiative processes, and relativistic plasmas. Some of his significant achievements are his discovery, with Douglas Eardley, of a structural instability in orbiting disks of matter, called accretion disks, that form around massive condensed objects such as black holes, with wide application in astronomy; his proof, with David L. Lee, that all gravitation theories obeying the Weak Equivalence Principle (the experimentally verified fact that all objects fall with the same acceleration in a gravitational field) must be metric theories of gravity, that is, must describe gravity as a geometrical warping of time and space; his calculations, with Stuart Shapiro, of the distribution of stars around a massive black hole and the rate of destruction of those stars by the hole; his discovery, independently of Roland Svensson of Sweden, of the negative heat behavior of optically thin, hot thermal plasmas dominated by electron-positron pairs, that is, the result that adding energy to thin hot gases causes their temperature to decrease rather than increase; and his work on unusual radiation processes, such as unsaturated inverse Compton scattering, in thermal media, also with wide application in astrophysics. His research articles have appeared in Physical Review, The Astrophysical Journal, Reviews of Modern Physics, Nature, and other journals. In 1990 he chaired the science panel of the National Academy of Sciences Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee. He is a past chair of the High Energy Division of the American Astronomical Society.
In 1981, Lightman began publishing essays about science, the human side of science, and the "mind of science", beginning with Smithsonian and moving to Science 82, The New Yorker, and other magazines. Since that time, Lightman's essays, short fiction, and reviews have also appeared in The American Scholar, The Atlantic Monthly, Boston Review, Dædalus, Discover, Exploratorium, Granta, Harper's Magazine, Harvard Magazine, Inc Technology, Nautilus, Nature, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, "Salon", Science 86, The Sciences, Story, Technology Review, and World Monitor.
Lightman's novel Einstein's Dreams was an international bestseller and has been translated into thirty languages. More than one hundred independent theatrical, dance, video, and musical productions have been based on Einstein's Dreams around the world. The book was runner up for the 1994 PEN New England / Boston Globe Winship Award. Einstein's Dreams was also the March 1998 selection for National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" Book Club. The novel has been used in numerous colleges and universities, in many cases for university-wide adoptions in "common-book" programs. Lightman's novel The Diagnosis was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award in fiction and has been adopted by high school teachers of Advanced Placement English. In 2007 Lightman released his novel, Ghost, an examination of the dichotomies of the physical world and the spiritual world, scepticism and faith, the natural and the supernatural, and science and religion. His novel Mr g, published in 2012, is the story of creation as told by God. Mr g has recently been adapted for the stage by Wesley Savick. In 2009, Lightman published his first volume of poetry, a book-length narrative in verse titled "Song of Two Worlds." Lightman's essays on science have frequently appeared in anthologies of the best science writing of the year. His essay "The Accidental Universe," was chosen by the New York Times as one of the best essays of the year for 2011, as was his essay "What Came Before the Big Bang?" published in 2014. His book The Accidental Universe was chosen by Brainpickings as one of the ten best books of 2014. His book Screening Room, a slightly fictionalized memoir, was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the best books of the year. His most recent books are In Praise of Wasting Time, and In Search of Stars on an Island in Maine, about the way in which religion and science differ in their methods and approach to truth.
In 2003, Lightman made his first trip to Southeast Asia, to Cambodia. There he met a Cambodian lawyer named Veasna Chea who told him that when she had been going to university in Phnom Penh in the mid 1990s, she and a handful of female students lived underneath the university building, in the two-meter crawl space between the bottom of the building and the mud, because there was no housing for female university students. Male students could live in the Buddhist pagodas or safely rent rooms together, but those options were not available to female students. Lightman and Chea together conceived the idea of a dormitory for female university students in Phnom Penh. Lightman raised the money to build the facility, which was completed in 2006, the first such facility in the country. During this work, Lightman founded the Harpswell Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance a new generation of women leaders in Southeast Asia. Harpswell is funded from the donations of private individuals, foundations, and corporations. Harpswell now operates two dormitory and leadership centers in Phnom Penh. In addition to providing free housing, food, and medical care, the facility gives outstanding young women a rigorous in-house program in leadership skills and critical thinking (which they take in the evenings and weekends when they are not attending their regular university classes). The in-house program includes English instruction, computer literacy, debate, analytical writing, comparative genocide studies, strategies for civic engagement, leadership training, and discussion and analysis of national and international events. After its first two years of operation, the Harpswell students were first in their class at most of the major universities in Cambodia. As of Fall 2018, the Cambodian program has about 160 graduates and about 76 current students. On average, Harpswell graduates earn five to ten times the salary of an average Cambodian woman and are now advancing into leadership positions as project managers at NGOs, lawyers, businesswomen, journalists, engineers, health care workers, teachers and professors, government staff, and bankers.
In 2017, Harpswell launched a new program in leadership for young professional women from all ten countries of Southeast Asia: Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei, plus Nepal. The program consists of an intense, two week summer program in Penang Malaysia, with lectures and workshops in critical thinking, civic engagement, Southeast Asian geography and society, technology and communication, and gender issues. The program has a total of 25 participants each year, who are flown to Penang from their respective countries. We are also developing a strong alumnae association. Further information is available at the website of the Harpswell Foundation.
In 2002, Lightman and playwright Alan Brody launched a monthly salon of scientists and theater artists from the greater Boston area to discuss questions of mutual interest to scientists and artists. The salon ran for ten years, out of which was created the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT, a partnership between MIT and the Central Square Theater in Cambridge. The Collaborative has created and sponsored a number of new plays that embrace the culture of science. Lightman serves as one of its directors.
In 2015, Lightman was named to the International Council of Advisors of the Asian University for Women. He is also on the Board of Advisors of Primary Source, a nonprofit that works to raise global awareness in high school student in Massachusetts. He is on the Editorial Board of Undark, an online magazine about science and society.
A Short History of the World is a period-piece non-fictional historic work by English author H. G. Wells first published by Cassell & Co, Ltd Publishing in 1922. It was first published in Penguin Books in 1936. It was republished under Penguin Classics in 2006. The book was largely inspired by Wells's earlier 1919 work The Outline of History.The book is 344 pages in total, summarising the scientific knowledge of the time regarding the history of Earth and life. It starts with its origins, goes on to explain the development of the Earth and life on Earth, reaching primitive thought and the development of humankind from the Cradle of Civilisation. The book ends with the outcome of the First World War, the Russian famine of 1921, and the League of Nations in 1922. In 1934 Albert Einstein recommended the book for the study of history as a means of interpreting progress in civilisation.Andrew Gemant Award
The Andrew Gemant Award is a prize awarded by the American Institute of Physics to a person who has made substantial cultural, artistic, or humanistic contributions to physics. The award is named after Andrew Gemant.Concord, Massachusetts
Concord () is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. At the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. The United States Census Bureau considers Concord part of Greater Boston. The town center is located near where the confluence of the Sudbury and Assabet rivers forms the Concord River.
The area that became the town of Concord was originally known as Musketaquid, an Algonquian word for "grassy plain." Concord was established in 1635 by a handful of British settlers; by 1775, the population had grown to 1,400. As dissension between colonists in North America and the British crown intensified, 700 troops were sent to confiscate militia ordnance stored at Concord on April 19, 1775. The ensuing conflict, the Battle of Lexington and Concord, was the final inciting incident (the shot heard round the world) that triggered the American Revolutionary War.
A rich literary community developed in Concord during the mid-nineteenth century, centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson's circle included Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau. Major works written in Concord during this period include Alcott's novel Little Women, Emerson's essay Self-Reliance, and Thoreau's Walden and Civil Disobedience. In this era, the now-ubiquitous Concord grape was developed in Concord by Ephraim Wales Bull.
In the 20th century, Concord developed into an affluent Boston suburb and tourist destination, drawing visitors to the Old North Bridge, Orchard House and Walden Pond. The town retains its literary culture and is home to notable authors including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Alan Lightman and Gregory Maguire. Concord is also notable for its progressive and environmentalist politics, becoming in 2012 the first community in the United States to ban single-serving PET bottles.Einstein's Dreams
Einstein's Dreams is a 1992 novel by Alan Lightman that was an international bestseller and has been translated into thirty languages. It was runner up for the 1994 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Einstein's Dreams was also the March 1998 selection for National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" Book Club. The novel has been used in numerous colleges and universities, in many cases for university-wide adoptions in "common-book" programs.
Einstein's Dreams was first adapted for the stage by David Gardiner and Ralf Remshardt and performed at the University of Florida in 1996. An off-off-Broadway production of this stage version ran briefly at the New York Fringe Festival in 2001; it has also been performed in Beijing (2009).Hilary Thayer Hamann
Hilary Thayer Hamann (born November 7, 1962, in New York City) is an American author. Her first novel, Anthropology of an American Girl, is the story of a search for authenticity told in the first-person voice of teenaged protagonist Eveline Auerbach. The semi-autobiographical literary novel contains an examination of the social and cultural pressures that prevent individuals from living meaningfully. It was self-published in 2003, and then edited and re-released in 2010 by Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, both times to critical praise. The novel has been compared to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.Hamann edited, co-wrote, and published a non-fiction science and art book, also to praise from critics, as well as from scientists and educators. Categories—On the Beauty of Physics (2006) was conceived as a multidisciplinary educational tool that uses art and literature to broaden the reader's understanding of challenging material. Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams, called Categories "A beautiful synthesis of science and art, pleasing to the mind and to the eye," and Dr. Helen Caldicott, founder and president of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, said, "This wonderful book will provoke thought in lovers of science and art alike, and with knowledge comes the inspiration to preserve the beauty of life on Earth."Lightman
Lightman may refer to
Toby LightmanSari and Romy Lightman: Canadian musicians and twins sisters. Members of the band, Tasseomancy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasseomancy_(band)
Cal Lightman, character in the television series Lie to MeFilms:
Lightman (film), is a Tamil film from Venkatesh Kumar.GList of essayists
This is a list of essayists—people notable for their essay-writing.
Note: Birthplaces (as listed) do not always indicate nationality.List of things named after Albert Einstein
This is a list of things named after Albert Einstein.Mister G
Mister G may refer to:
King Gustaf V of Sweden, playing tennis under the pseudonym Mister G
Mister G (children's performer)
Mr G, a fictional character in Summer Heights High portrayed by Chris Lilley
Mr g, a 2012 novel by Alan LightmanMr g
Mr g is a 2012 novel by Alan Lightman. The book was released on January 24, 2012 by Pantheon Books and the book is narrated by Mr g as he describes the process of creation.Rebecca Goldstein
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (born February 23, 1950) is an American philosopher, novelist and public intellectual. She has written ten books, both fiction and nonfiction. Her Princeton Ph.D. was in philosophy of science, and she is sometimes grouped with novelists, such as Richard Powers and Alan Lightman, who create fiction that is knowledgeable of, and sympathetic toward, science.In her three nonfiction works she has shown an affinity for philosophical rationalism, as well as a conviction that philosophy, like science, makes progress and that scientific progress is itself supported by philosophical arguments. She has also stressed the role that secular philosophical reason has made in moral advances.
Increasingly, in her talks and interviews, she has been exploring what she has called "mattering theory" as an alternative to traditional utilitarianism. This theory is a continuation of her idea of "the mattering map", first suggested in her novel The Mind-Body Problem. The concept of the mattering map has been widely adopted in contexts as diverse as cultural criticism, psychology, and behavioral economics.Goldstein is a MacArthur Fellow and has received the National Humanities Medal, the National Jewish Book Award, and numerous other honors.Robert Desimone
Robert Desimone is the director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Doris and Don Berkey Professor of Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The McGovern Institute was founded at MIT by Patrick Joseph McGovern and Lore Harp McGovern with a dual mission of conducting basic research on the mind and brain and applying that knowledge to help the many people suffering from brain disorders. Prior to joining the McGovern Institute in 2004, Robert Desimone was the director of intramural research at the National Institute of Mental Health. He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is recognized for his research on the brain mechanisms that underlie visual perception, attention, and executive control. At the McGovern Institute, he is promoting the development of systems neuroscience, novel neuroscience technologies, and the translation of basic research findings into new treatments that improve human health, including new approaches to brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. He sits on the boards of directors of the three McGovern Institutes in China, at Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Beijing Normal University. At the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology (SIAT), he and his colleague Guoping Feng, are collaborating with a new center to create animal genetic models for brain disorders. From 2014-2018, Desimone has been featured as an international guest judge on The Brain, a televised competition of unique mental skills in China, where it is now one of the most popular TV series. He is married with two children.Science
Science (from the Latin word scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.The earliest roots of science can be traced to Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in around 3500 to 3000 BCE. Their contributions to mathematics, astronomy, and medicine entered and shaped Greek natural philosophy of classical antiquity, whereby formal attempts were made to explain events of the physical world based on natural causes. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, knowledge of Greek conceptions of the world deteriorated in Western Europe during the early centuries (400 to 1000 CE) of the Middle Ages but was preserved in the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. The recovery and assimilation of Greek works and Islamic inquiries into Western Europe from the 10th to 13th century revived natural philosophy, which was later transformed by the Scientific Revolution that began in the 16th century as new ideas and discoveries departed from previous Greek conceptions and traditions. The scientific method soon played a greater role in knowledge creation and it was not until the 19th century that many of the institutional and professional features of science began to take shape.Modern science is typically divided into three major branches that consist of the natural sciences (e.g., biology, chemistry, and physics), which study nature in the broadest sense; the social sciences (e.g., economics, psychology, and sociology), which study individuals and societies; and the formal sciences (e.g., logic, mathematics, and theoretical computer science), which study abstract concepts. There is disagreement, however, on whether the formal sciences actually constitute a science as they do not rely on empirical evidence. Disciplines that utilize existing scientific knowledge for practical purposes, such as engineering and medicine, are described as applied sciences.Science is based on research, which is commonly conducted in academic and research institutions as well as in government agencies and companies. The practical impact of scientific research has led to the emergence of science policies that seek to influence the scientific enterprise by prioritizing the development of commercial products, armaments, health care, and environmental protection.Smithsonian (magazine)
Smithsonian is the official journal published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The first issue was published in 1970.The Best American Essays
The Best American Essays is a yearly anthology of magazine articles published in the United States. It was started in 1986 and is now part of The Best American Series published by Houghton Mifflin. Articles are chosen using the same procedure with other titles in the Best American series; the series editor chooses about 100 article candidates, from which the guest editor picks 25 or so for publication; the remaining runner-up articles listed in the appendix. The series is edited by Robert Atwan, and Joyce Carol Oates assisted in the editing process until 2000 with the publication of The Best American Essays of the Century.The Best American Science Writing
The Best American Science Writing is a yearly anthology of popular science articles published in the United States, which commenced publication in 2000. The books are published by Ecco Press (HarperCollins). As of 2013 the series editor is Jesse Cohen. Cohen was preceded as series editor by Alan Lightman. The series is unrelated to the Best American Series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Veritas Forum
The Veritas Forum is a non-profit organization which works with Christian students on college campuses to host forums centered on the exploration of truth and its relevancy in human life, through the questions of philosophy, religion, science, and other disciplines. The organization, named after the Latin word for truth, aims to "create university events engaging students and faculty in exploring life's hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life." The first Veritas Forum was held at Harvard University in 1986. By 2008, 300,000 students had attended over 300 forums at 100 campuses across the United States, Canada, France, England, and the Netherlands. In the 2010–2011 academic year, Veritas Forums were held at over 50 institutions of higher education. Veritas Forums are available for viewing online, and the organization has published several books with InterVarsity Press.