At 71, Old Physics Professor Is a Web Star

Dec 19 20:06 2007 Subhash Print This Article

The article is about the professor of physics at the age of 71.

Walter H. G. Lewin,Guest Posting 71, a physics professor, has long had a cult following at M.I.T. And he has now emerged as an international Internet guru, thanks to the global classroom the institute created to spread knowledge through cyberspace. Professor Lewin’s videotaped physics lectures, free online on the Open Courseware of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have won him devotees across the country and beyond who stuff his e-mail in-box with praise.

Last week, Yale put some of its most popular undergraduate courses and professors online free. The list includes Controversies in Astrophysics with Charles Bailyn, Modern Poetry with Langdon Hammer and Introduction to the Old Testament with Christine Hayes. M.I.T. recently expanded its online classes by opening a site aimed at high school students and teachers. Judging from his fan e-mail, Professor Lewin, who is among those featured on the new site, appeals to students of all ages.

Professor Lewin revels in his fan mail and in the idea that he is spreading the love of physics. “Teaching is my life,” he said. The professor, who is from the Netherlands, said that teaching a required course in introductory physics to M.I.T. students made him realize “that what really counts is to make them love physics, to make them love science.”

Professor Lewin was correct,” Mr. Boigon wrote in an e-mail message to a reporter. “He made me SEE ... and it has changed my life for the better!!”

“I had never taken a course in physics, or calculus, or differential equations,” he wrote to Professor Lewin. “Now I have done all that in order to be able to follow your lectures. I knew the name Isaac Newton, but nothing about Newtonian Mechanics. I had heard of the likes of Einstein, Galileo.” But, he added that he “didn’t have a clue on earth as to what they were all about.”

“I walk down the street analyzing the force of a boy on skateboard or the recoil of a carpenter using a nail gun,” he wrote. “Thank you with all my heart.”

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