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Biography
Interview
 

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Paul Hewitt

Interview

[2003]

Paul Hewitt talks about the new edition of Conceptual Physics.

PE | Your nephew, John Suchocki, credits you with inspiring him to write his book, Conceptual Chemistry. What inspired you to write Conceptual Physics and Conceptual Physical Science?

PH | Conceptual Physics began as pass-out notes to my students in the late 60s. At that time physics books were heavy in problem solving, and I wanted to get its concepts to my students. This focus and my enthuiasiam for physics resulted in my course becoming the largest and most popular at City College [of San Francisco]. My inspiration for extending my notes to a book was fueled by the delight that thousands of students shared with me about physics. I never dreamed that the book would be so successful with other teachers. Early editions were dedicated to "the struggling student," for I wanted physics to be enjoyable rather than the struggle it was for me. Hence, it has always been a student-oriented book.

PE | What advice do you have for colleagues who would like to reach their students using the conceptual approach?

PH | Ask more questions and do less professing. And rather than answering your own questions, guide your students to doing so. Teach what you know as you would to your own children.

PE | Are you excited about new teaching opportunities using media and the Web?

PH | Although I enjoyed much success lecturing about physics, I always sensed teaching by the lecture method was inefficient, and that it would evolve to some better way of getting information in the minds of students. I see this now as the Web. I'm very excited about it.

PE | Can you tell us a bit more about how you have used these in the forthcoming new edition of your book?

PH | The ancillaries to my book have always played a large role in my course. Involvement on the Web is a giant step. We begin with putting my ancillaries on it, with tutorials, and course management. I feel the web site will surmount the ineffiency of learning that I sensed in the past.

PE | Who was the biggest influence on your career and why?

PH | There are three big influences. First is Burl Grey, a fellow signpainter, who lit my fire for science in the late 50s. He lives at my San Francisco apartment today. Then there was his friend, Jacque Fresco, who demonstrated inspirational teaching in his public lectures about building a saner world via technology. Jacque now heads up a model community, The Venus Project, in Venus, Florida. The third is dear friend Ken Ford, my physics mentor, whose book Basic Physics inspired me when I began teaching, and who now critiques all my writing. All three greatly inspired me to be inspirational to others.


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