Astrophysicist and Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Walter Lewin is a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, where he is a member of the X-ray Astronomy Group. He is a graduate of the University of Delft in the Netherlands.
Some of the most interesting astronomical bodies produce X-rays: stars, double star systems, and matter falling onto compact objects such as a black hole. Yet as these X-rays reach our planet, they are absorbed by the atmosphere and cannot be observed from the ground. In the late 1960s and early 70s, Lewin and his colleagues performed pioneering surveys of X-ray sources using balloon-borne detectors. They discovered variability on times scales of tens of minutes in the astronomical X-ray source Sco X-1, and they discovered GX 1+4, the first of a curious class of objects known as slowly-rotating X-ray pulsars.
Lewin has also made a name for himself as an engaging – and inspiring – physics teacher and has received numerous awards for his teaching abilities, his obvious passion for his subjects, and his dedication to his students. Ever since his introductory lectures on physics have become available for download on the Internet, they have brought inspiration to record audiences all over the world.