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Alan Lightman | Biography


Alan Lightman was born on November 28, 1948, in Memphis, Tennessee. As a child, he was deeply fascinated by both science and art, designing his own science projects and writing his own poetry, both of which earned him numerous awards as a young student.

He attended Princeton University, where he earned a degree in physics in 1970. He went on to earn an advanced degree in theoretical physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1974 and began teaching at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He continued to publish poetry and became the first professor at MIT to teach in both the sciences and the humanities. In the field of astrophysics, Lightman made significant contributions on the subject of black holes, as well as the behavior of matter and radiation.

Lightman's scientific studies contributed greatly to his first novel, Einstein's Dreams, since his complex understanding of gravitational theory allowed him to intimately understand Einstein's theory of time. His creative background helped him write about Einstein's theories from a unique point of view, melding details of Einstein's life with speculation about his thought process. Lightman was struck by the notion that few of his colleagues anticipated Einstein's scientific successes while he was still working as a patent office clerk in the early 1900s, when the novel takes place. These unlikely origins inspired Lightman to imagine how Einstein's theories of time began to take hold inside his mind. The book became an international best seller and went on to become translated in more than 30 languages.

In 2003 Lightman founded the nonprofit Harpswell Foundation to support emerging female leaders in Cambodia. He has also published numerous other fiction, essays, fables, and scientific tracts, along with a memoir. Some of Lightman's other notable titles are The Accidental Universe and A Sense of the Mysterious.

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