Science writer, novelist Lightman to speak at MSU

Science writer, novelist Lightman to speak at MSU

Passages from Alan Lightman's many science-themed novels can be found on BrainyQuotes, NotableQuotes, Goodreads and other Internet sites that gather memorable adages. He is recognized internationally as a thinker on the meeting place between the scientific and creative processes. The physicist, novelist, and essayist will be the guest of Midwestern State University's Speakers and Issues Series at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in the Fain Fine Arts Auditorium.

Lightman is the author of more than 15 award-winning novels, science books, and essay collections. 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 30 languages. His novel The Diagnosis was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award in fiction. Lightman is also the founding director of the Harpswell Foundation, which works to empower a new generation of women leaders in Cambodia.

Lightman was educated at Princeton University and the California Institute of Technology, where he received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics. In 1989, Lightman was appointed professor of science and writing, and senior lecturer in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was one the first people at MIT to receive dual faculty appointments in science and in the humanities, and was John Burchard Professor of Humanities, a chair named after the first dean of humanities at MIT. In 2001, Lightman cofounded the Graduate Program in Science Writing, which accepted its first students in the fall of 2002. That same year, he resigned his chair to allow more time for his writing and became adjunct professor at MIT.

For "The Physicist as Novelist," the title of Lightman's talk, he will draw from his unique personal experience as both a physicist and a novelist to discuss the similarities and differences in the way that the sciences and the arts approach the world, their different conceptions of truth, their different methodologies, and the similarities in their creative process. For example, all questions in science have definite answers, while questions in the arts (and often the humanities) do not have definite answers - and sometimes no answer at all.

The Speakers and Issues Series began in 2001 with the idea of bringing informed and creative speakers to the academic and municipal communities. Since then, more than 20 speakers have come to MSU from all corners of the country. The inaugural speaker for the series was Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko in 2002. Other past speakers include MSU alumnus and physician Dr. Mark Puder; author Donna Johnson; forensic pathologist Dr. Marcela Fierro; arborist William Bryant Logan; biologist E.O. Wilson; Native American poet Jim Barnes; Texas poet Walt McDonald; MSU professors James Hoggard, Everett Kindig, Charles Olson and Michael Collins; musicians Eurah White and Jimmie Dale Gilmore; and Wichita Falls physician Dr. Eid Mustafa.

The series is supported by Elizabeth Bourland Hawley, the Libra Foundation, MSU's Prothro-Yeager College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Wichita Falls Times Record News, KCCU-FM NPR Radio, and KFDX-TV3.

Admission is free; donations are welcome. For more information, contact Dr. Greg Giddings at or visit