Alan Lightman


Alan Paige Lightman was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. A physicist, writer and social entrepreneur, Lightman demonstrated, early on, an interest in both the sciences and the arts by winning city and state science fairs as well as being a state winner of the National Council of Teachers of English award. He received his AB degree in physics from Princeton University in 1970, and his Ph.D., also in physics, from the California Institute of Technology in 1974. Lightman was a postdoctoral fellow in astrophysics at Cornell, an assistant professor of astronomy at Harvard, a research scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Throughout the 90’s, he headed the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies at MIT and, during this period, he helped create a new Communication Requirement at MIT, which requires all MIT undergraduates to have a course equivalent in writing or speaking each of their four years. In 2001, Lightman cofounded the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, and, in 2004, cofounded the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT, which is a collaboration between MIT and the Underground Railway Theater of Boston.

In the 1990’s, he started publishing poetry and essays in magazines such as “Science 80”, “The Smithsonian”, and “The New Yorker”. He’s the author of the international bestseller “Einstein’s Dreams”, which was translated into more than thirty languages and adapted into dozens of theatre productions and independent musicals worldwide. Lightman also published eight fiction novels, a memory book and seven scientific ones, as well as countless articles and research papers. His novel “The Diagnosis” was a finalist for the National Book Award.

After his first trip to Cambodia, in 2003, he founded a non-profit organisation named “Harpswell” whose mission is to advance a new generation of women leaders in Southeast Asia.

Lightman is currently a Professor of the Practice of the Humanities at MIT. In his thinking and writing, Lightman is known for exploring the intersection of the sciences and the humanities, especially the dialogue between science, philosophy, religion, and spirituality.

 He has received, to date, six honorary doctoral degrees.

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