Alan Lightman (lightman@mit.edu)

Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman is a physicist, novelist, and essayist. He was educated at Princeton University and at the California Institute of Technology, where he received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. Before coming to MIT, he was on the faculty of Harvard University. At MIT, Lightman was one the first people to receive dual faculty appointments in science and in the humanities and was John Burchard Professor of Humanities before becoming an Adjunct Professor to allow more time for his writing. Lightman is the author of five novels, two collections of essays, a book-length narrative poem, and several books on science. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Granta, the New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books, among other publications. His novel Einstein’s Dreams was an international bestseller and has been translated into thirty languages. His novel The Diagnosis was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award in fiction. His most recent books are Screening Room, A Memoir of the South (2015), named one of the best books of 2015 by the Washington Post, and The Accidental Universe (2016), named by Brainpickings as one of the best books of 2016. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has won numerous other awards and is the recipient of 5 honorary degrees. Lightman is also the founding director of the Harpswell Foundation, which works to empower a new generation of women leaders in Cambodia.

  • In Praise of Wasting Time
Alan Lightman
TED Books, 2018

    In Praise of Wasting Time

    Professor Alan Lightman investigates the creativity born from allowing our minds to freely roam, without attempting to accomplish anything and without any assigned tasks.

     
  • Searching for Stars on an Island in MaineAlan Lightman

    Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine

    As a physicist, Alan Lightman has always held a scientific view of the world. As a teenager experimenting in his own laboratory, he was impressed by the logic and materiality of a universe governed by a small number of disembodied forces and laws that decree all things in the world are material and impermanent. But one summer evening, while looking at the stars from a small boat at sea, Lightman was overcome by the overwhelming sensation that he was merging with something larger than himself–a grand and eternal unity, a hint of something absolute and immaterial. Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine is Lightman’s exploration of these seemingly contradictory impulses.

     
  • Mr g: A Novel About the Creation
Pantheon, 2012

    Mr g: A Novel About the Creation

    “’As I remember, I had just woken up from a nap when I decided to create the universe.’ So begins Alan Lightman’s playful and profound new novel, Mr g.”

     
  • The Accidental Universe

    The Accidental Universe

    “These phenomena have been explained as necessary consequences of the fundamental laws of nature. This long and appealing trend may be coming to an end.”

     
  • Einstein’s Dreams

    Einstein’s Dreams

    Alan Lightman’s “modern classic”, a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905.