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Paul G. Hewitt

Paul G. Hewitt, former boxer, uranium prospector, signpainter, 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 non-science and science majors as well.

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.  

In 1987 he wrote a high-school version of Conceptual Physics, published by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc. At the same time his classes at City College of San Francisco were videotaped, and a set of twelve lectures were distributed world-wide by Addison-Wesley. The full set of his entire course is now distributed by Media Solutions in San Francisco. The high school text is now in its fourth edition, and is now published by Pearson Education, Inc. The college text is now in its twelfth edition, with Pearson Education, Inc. Translations of both texts find Conceptual Physics popular worldwide.

Hewitt's teaching career began in 1964 at City College of San Francisco, his home base.  Since 1980 he 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 then at the University of Hawaii at both the Hilo and Manoa campuses, where his course was again videotaped — a complete course of 34 lectures, Conceptual Physics Alive!. These are available from Arbor Scientific Company.

Hewitt's other textbooks include the 5th Edition of Conceptual Physical Science, co-authored with his daughter Leslie Abrams, a geologist, and his nephew John Suchocki, a chemistry instructor at St. Andrews College in Vermont. It is published by Addison-Wesley. A version for 8th and 9th grade students is Conceptual Physical Science—Explorations, Third Edition, is published by Pearson Education, Inc. Another book by Pearson Education, Inc. that includes biology is Conceptual Integrated Science, now in its second edition by authors Suzanne Lyons, Jennifer Yeh, John Suchocki, and Hewitt.

Hewitt's present passion is creating screencasts, short lessons on elementary physics that have been posted on YouTube. These are in step with the Conceptual Physics books, and are additionally posted here on this website, and on and The screencasts, called Hewitt Drew It! are meant for general
use and may be copied for classroom, homeschool, or science-buff use. All are free and can also be found at website.

Hewitt mainly resides in St. Petersburg, Florida, with his wife Lillian, who helps in development of the textbooks and the screencasts. They reside part time in San Francisco.




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