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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Studying Dan Frank, E-book Editor and ‘Champion of the Unexampled’

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I met him by way of Alan Lightman, who had emailed me to say he was coming to New York to offer a chat, and did I need to have dinner with him and two visitors — his daughter and a person named Dan.

I immediately felt this, simply, radiance, a sort of humble heat but additionally a really full of life thoughts. He was such a stunning human being, so delicate and beneficiant, an embodiment of what an important editor does: will get out of the best way, taking with him the rubble that writers put in their very own path.

He was very within the intersection of the novelist and the scholarly. He understood uniquely how all historical past is a sort of narrative superimposed on actuality — an invention and interpretation. Science is a human-driven seek for fact. Not in a social-constructivist means; there is an elemental fact. However the search can fold in on itself, as a result of we solely have the instruments of human consciousness to work with. Regardless of the prostheses — telescopes, microscopes — it’s nonetheless a human thoughts that does the processing and evaluation, that filters all the things by way of its life, its loves, the Dans it misplaced, all the things.

The historical past of science is finally the historical past of human expertise. Dan noticed that there was one thing there to have a look at that defies the robotic mannequin of objectivity. There may be an animating query frequent to all of the books he did: “What’s all this? What is all this?”

Alan Lightman is a physicist and author at M.I.T. He has printed a dozen books with Dan Frank, beginning in 1986 with “A Fashionable Day Yankee in a Connecticut Courtroom. and Different Essays on Science.”

In March 30, 1983, I received a letter from an editor I had by no means heard of, saying that if there was ever a e book I needed to put in writing, I ought to get in contact: “I’ve been studying your column, The Bodily Aspect, for over a 12 months, and I’m notably impressed with the convenience and beauty with which you elucidate advanced concepts.”

That was highly effective encouragement. Earlier than the web, Dan would at all times ship me a letter earlier than anything; not a telephone name, however a letter. I stored that letter and all of the letters I ever received from him.

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