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July 11, 2006

Alan Lightman Among Sigma Xi Annual Meeting Speakers

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC -- A talk by physicist and best-selling novelist Alan Lightman, winner of the 2006 John P. McGovern Science and Society Award, promises to be a highlight of Sigma Xiís Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference in Detroit on November 2-5.

The McGovern Award has been presented annually since 1984. Recent recipients include oceanographer Sylvia Earle and Canadian broadcaster David Suzuki, as well as Nobel laureates Norman Borlaug, Mario Molina and Roald Hoffmann.

Currently an adjunct professor of the humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lightman has had a stellar career as a researcher, educator and writer.

Lightman was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1948. From an early age, he was entranced by both science and the arts. While in high school he began conducting independent science projects and writing poetry.

He went on to graduate from Princeton University, earning his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the California Institute of Technology.

Lightman served on the faculty at Harvard University and for 10 years was a research scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, focusing on gravitation theory, the structure and behavior of accretion disks and stellar dynamics, among other areas.

He chaired the science panel of the National Academy of Sciences Astronomy and Astrophysics Survey Committee for the 1990s. He is a past chair of the High Energy Division of the American Astronomical Society.

In 1981, Lightman began publishing essays about science, the human side of science and the "mind of science," beginning with Smithsonian Magazine and moving to Science 82, The New Yorker and others.

Since then, his essays, short fiction and reviews have also appeared in The American Scholar, The Atlantic Monthly, Daedalus, Discover, Harperís, Nature and The New York Times, to name only a few.

His 1993 novel, Einsteinís Dreams, has been translated into 30 languages and was adopted for campus-wide readings at many colleges and universities. His other books include The Diagnosis, Reunion, A Sense of the Mysterious, Great Ideas in Physics and The Discoveries.

In 1995, Lightman was appointed John E. Burchard professor of humanities at MIT. He co-founded the Graduate Program in Science Writing there in 2001 and resigned his position the following year to allow more time for writing, becoming an adjunct professor.

Lightman has received numerous awards and honors. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 1999, he and his wife Jean founded the Harpswell Foundation, which provides educational opportunities to disadvantaged children and young people.


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