Conceptual Physics

Paul G. Hewitt


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Paul G. Hewitt

Paul G. Hewitt, former boxer, uranium prospector, sign painter, and cartoonist began college at the age of 28 and fell in love with physics. His name is synonymous with Conceptual Physics to physics educators everywhere. Before the advent of Professor Hewitt's textbook of the same name, physics was traditionally taught primarily as applied mathematics - geared to students with high math and science aptitudes. As such, any serious study of physics was out of the educational mainstream for most students. Hewitt's conceptual approach changed all this. By translating the central concepts of physics from mathematical language to common English, and by explaining physics rather than proclaiming physics, and by extensive use of analogies as a teaching tool, Hewitt brought physics into the educational mainstream. His textbook, the leading physics textbook for nonscientists since 1971, has changed the way physics is taught to both nonscience and science majors as well.

Hewitt's teaching career began in 1964 at City College of San Francisco, his home base. Since 1980 he has taught an evening course for the general public at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. He has taken leaves to teach physics at the University of California, both at the Berkeley and Santa Cruz campuses, and more recently at the University of Hawaii at both the Hilo and Manoa campuses, where his course was again videotaped - now the complete course of 34 lectures, Conceptual Physics Alive!. The video set is distributed by Addison-Wesley and Pearson Publishing Company, and by Arbor Scientific Company. The series is now available on DVD from M&M Enterprises in Chicago,Mellenstei@aol.com.

In 1987 he wrote a high-school version of Conceptual Physics, published by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. At the same time his classes at City College of San Francisco were videotaped, and a set of twelve lectures were distributed worldwide by Addison-Wesley. The high school text is now in its third edition, and is now published by Prentice Hall Inc. The college text is now in its ninth edition, still with Addison Wesley. Translations of both texts find Conceptual Physics popular worldwide.

Hewitt's other textbooks include the 2nd Edition of Conceptual Physical Science, co-authored with his daughter Leslie, a geologist, and his nephew John Suchocki, a chemistry instructor formerly at Leeward Community College in Oahu, HI. It is published by Addison-Wesley.

Very recently, Paul, Leslie, and John have written a version of the physical science book aimed at 9th graders in high school. It is Conceptual Physical Science-Explorations, and will be out in early 2002. Nephew John has also gone on to publish Conceptual Chemistry, with Benjamin Cummings. He now lives in Vermont.

Hewitt's only trade book (non textbook) is Touch This-Conceptual Physics for Everyone. Its former title was simply Conceptual Physics for Everyone. It is published by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

In recognition of Hewitt's achievements, the American Association of Physics Teachers honored him in 1982 with their Millikan Award - the once-per-year prestigious prize for outstanding contributions to physics teaching. Prior to this, Hewitt produced a film with animator Steve Smith, Relativistic Time Dilation, which won first prize for science at the 1977 American Educational Film Festival. Hewitt is presently a column editor for The Physics Teacher, the monthly magazine of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Hewitt now resides in both St. Petersburg, Florida and Hilo, Hawaii.