Fall event to feature physicist and novelist Alan Lightman

Photo of Alan Lightman
Photo by Brian Smith

With the 2022-23 academic year comes the return of the Think Forum lecture series at Case Western Reserve University, an invitation to members of campus and the Greater Cleveland community to engage with prominent academic leaders and international experts.

This year’s events will kick off Thursday, Oct. 20, at 6 p.m. as we welcome theoretical physicist and novelist Alan Lightman to the Maltz Performing Arts Center.

Following the October event, the Think Forum series will continue in the spring with the Think Forum F. Joseph Callahan Distinguished Lecture Wednesday, March 22, 2023.

Think Forum events are free, but pre-registration is required. Reservations may be made online or by calling the Maltz Center box office at 216.368.6062.

Alan Lightman: Thursday, Oct. 20

The author of New York Times bestseller Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman will speak on the topic “The Physicist as Novelist.” In this lecture, Lightman will draw on 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 create process.

Lightman has served on the faculties of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he helped lead the establishment of the “Communication Requirement” for all undergraduates to have training in writing and speaking. As an astrophysicist, Lightman has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of black holes, radiation processes at the centers of galaxies, and the foundations of Einstein’s theory of gravity. 

Lightman’s essays on science and the human condition have been published in The AtlanticHarper’sThe New YorkerTin HouseThe New York Times, and many other places. Lightman’s collection of essays, The Accidental Universe, was selected by BrainPickings as one of the 10 best books of the year, and the title essay of that book was chosen by The New York Times as one of the best essays of the year in any category saying, “Lightman’s illuminating language and crisp imagery aim to ignite a sense of wonder in any reader who’s ever pondered the universe, our world, and the nature of human consciousness.” (Publisher’s Weekly on Lightman’s Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine.) 

Lightman’s novel The Diagnosis, about the American obsession with information, speed and money, was a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction. Einstein’s Dreams has inspired dozens of independent theatrical and musical productions worldwide and this book is one of the most widely used texts in universities today and has been translated into 30 languages. His book Probable Impossibilities is a collection of meditative essays on the possibilities—and impossibilities—of nothingness and infinity, and how our place in the cosmos falls somewhere in between. Kirkus called it “roaming, eye-opening, insightful, and literate collection of science writing … Complex science made accessible.” 

The Think Forum lecture series, previously known as the Town Hall of Cleveland, is the nation’s longest consecutive running speaker series. Since 1962, the series has hosted such luminaries as Winston Churchill, Dan Rather, Henry Kissinger, and many other dignitaries, leaders, scholars and authors.