Physicist and Writer Alan Lightman to be Writer-in-Residence

PASADENA, Calif. - Merging science and art is a tricky task, but one well worth the effort, notes the physicist, science writer, essayist, and novelist Alan Lightman. As he wrote in a recent essay in the New York Times: "When the science is integrated so that it is part of the human drama, part of the beauty and mystery of human existence, then science and art have achieved a perfect harmony."

Lightman, who has taught both physics and writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will give two public presentations during the week of April 7 as writer-in-residence at the California Institute of Technology. He will begin the week as a panelist in a Science Writing Symposium on Monday, April 7, at 4 p.m. in Baxter Lecture Hall (free and open to the public).

On Tuesday, April 8, Lightman will give a seminar on "The Physicist as Novelist," in which he will consider similarities and differences between how scientists and artists understand the world. The seminar will take place at noon in 315 Baxter Hall on the Caltech campus. The event is free and open to the public, but is primarily aimed at faculty across academic disciplines.

Then on Thursday, April 10, Lightman will read from a selection of his writings, including his new novel, Reunion, to be published this July. The reading, also free and open to the public, will take place at 8 p.m. in Dabney Lounge.

Lightman earned his PhD in theoretical physics from Caltech in 1974, and focused his scientific research on gravitation theory, the structure and behavior of accretion disks, stellar dynamics, radiative processes, and relativistic plasmas. His research articles have appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals. For his contributions to physics, he was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1989 and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science the same year.

Lightman's novels include Einstein's Dreams (1993), Good Benito (1995), The Diagnosis (2000), and the forthcoming Reunion. He has also published six nonfiction books and many essays in magazines such as Harper's, the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Review of Books. In 1996 Lightman was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The writer-in-residence program is part of Caltech's Words Matter project, which is intended to foster appreciation of writing in its many forms and to offer undergraduates opportunities for close contact with accomplished writers. Words Matter is coordinated by Steven Youra, director of the Hixon Writing Center. For more information, go to

Contact: Mark Wheeler (626) 395-8733

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Written by Marcus Woo

Caltech Media Relations