Campus News

Scientist-turned-novelist Alan Lightman will deliver this year’s Lothar Tresp Lecture

Alan Lightman, a physicist who began writing essays to make science more understandable and became the author of several best-selling novels, will speak at the university March 17.

Lightman, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of a dozen books, including Einstein’s Dreams and The Diagnosis, will give the annual Lothar Tresp Lecture at 3:30 p.m. in the Chapel. The talk, sponsored by the Honors Program, is open free to the public.

Described by the New York Times as a “highly original and imaginative thinker,” Lightman was a respected physics teacher and researcher before he became a writer, and has been praised for using literature to bridge the worlds of science and art.

His 1993 novel Einstein’s Dreams has been translated into 30 languages and is widely used in college and university classrooms. A selection of National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation Book Club, the book has spawned more than two dozen independent theatrical and musical productions.

The Diagnosis, published in 2000, was a National Book Award finalist, a Barnes and Noble national college bestseller and was voted one of the year’s 10 best novels by Booksense.

Lightman, a regular commentator for National Public Radio, is also author of the novels Good Benito and Reunion and a collection of essays and fables titled Dance for Two. His essays, short stories and reviews have been published in the Atlantic, Harper’s, the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books.

As a child, Lightman built toy rockets and wrote poetry and recalls spending much of his young life wrestling with the equal tugs of science and writing. He chose science because “I know a few scientists who had become writers, but I didn’t know any writers who had become scientists, so I figured that I should start my career in science and then come back to writing.”

After majoring in physics at Princeton and earning a doctorate in theoretical astrophysics at California Institute of Technology, he taught physics and astronomy at Harvard. In 1989 he moved to MIT where he would be allowed to teach physics and direct the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies.

The Tresp Lecture is named for Lothar Tresp, who was associated with UGA’s Honors Program for 34 years and was director of the program from 1967 until his retirement in 1994.