Reading Dan Frank, Book Editor and ‘Champion of the Unexampled’

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

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

He was very thinking about 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 reality. Not in a social-constructivist manner; there is an elemental reality. But the search can fold in on itself, as a result of we solely have the instruments of human consciousness to work with. Whatever the prostheses — telescopes, microscopes — it’s nonetheless a human thoughts that does the processing and evaluation, that filters every thing by way of its life, its loves, the Dans it misplaced, every thing.

The historical past of science is in the end the historical past of human expertise. Dan noticed that there was one thing there to take a look at that defies the robotic mannequin of objectivity. There is an animating query frequent to all the books he did: “What is 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 Modern Day Yankee in a Connecticut Court. and Other Essays on Science.”

In March 30, 1983, I bought a letter from an editor I had by no means heard of, saying that if there was ever a e-book I needed to write down, I ought to get in contact: “I have been reading your column, The Physical Element, for over a year, and I am particularly impressed with the ease and grace with which you elucidate complex ideas.”

That was highly effective encouragement. Before the web, Dan would all the time ship me a letter earlier than the rest; not a cellphone name, however a letter. I saved that letter and all the letters I ever bought from him.

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