Mallett, Ronald L. 1945(?)-
Mallett, Ronald L. 1945(?)-
Born c. 1945. Education: Attended Pennsylvania State University, Altoona; Pennsylvania State University, Eberly College of Science, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.
Office—University of Connecticut, U-3046, 2152 Hillside Rd., Storrs, CT 06269-3046. E-mail—[email protected]
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, 1975—, currently professor of physics.
Outstanding Alumni Award, Pennsylvania State University, Altoona, 2006.
(With Bruce Henderson) Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality (memoir), Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Ronald L. Mallett was drawn to physics by a desire to travel through time and reunite with his father, who died of a heart attack at age thirty-three in 1955, when Mallett was ten. He eventually became a physicist and university professor but kept this information largely to himself until the 1990s, when time travel was starting to become a respectable research subject, and a colleague encouraged him to pursue such study. In Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality, written with Bruce Henderson, Mallett lays out his theory that time travel is possible, although in a more limited fashion than science fiction has envisioned, and discusses the life experiences that led to his investigation.
In addition to the loss of his father, these experiences include dealing with poverty and racism (Mallett is African-American); being inspired by such diverse figures as H.G. Wells, James Baldwin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking; becoming one of the first African-Americans to earn a doctorate in theoretical physics; and enduring periods of depression when he questioned the worth of his research. Finally, he and some fellow physicists started developing a machine they believe will allow subatomic particles to travel a brief distance through time. He says time travel for humans may be possible sometime in the twenty-first century, but he has concluded that nothing, and no one, will be able to go back to a time before the machine was built—meaning, he writes, that "I would not be able to use my time machine to see my father."
Several reviewers thought Mallett managed to tell a moving life story as well as make complicated scientific concepts accessible to general readers. Time Traveler is "strange, interesting and ultimately touching," observed Bruce Lieberman in the San Diego Union-Tribune. The book, commented Julie Mayeda in the San Francisco Chronicle, "is as inspirational a read as watching underdog Rocky Balboa knock down the impressive Apollo Creed." A Kirkus Reviews contributor, meanwhile, called it "a hokey but inspiring blend of personal narrative and scientific exploration." As for that exploration, Lieberman remarked that "Mallett does an outstanding job of placing these tough subjects within a lay reader's grasp." Mayeda noted: "Whatever physics is needed to follow Mallett on his life's quest is explained by and by and without mind-numbing equations." Overall, she added, Time Traveler is "worthwhile and surprisingly entertaining."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Mallett, Ronald L., and Bruce Henderson, Time Traveler: A Scientist's Personal Mission to MakeTime Travel a Reality, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Chronicle of Higher Education, April 19, 2002, Richard Morgan, "On the Edge of Forever."
Engineer, April 12, 2002, "U.S. Physicist with Time on His Hands," p. 4.
Hartford Courant, November 14, 2006, William Weir, "On the Long Road to Making Time Travel a Future Reality."
Ivyleaf: The Penn State Altoona Magazine, fall, 2006, brief article on Mallett and alumni award.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2006, review of Time Traveler, p. 888.
New Haven Register, January 30, 2007, "Physicist Wins Outstanding Alumni Award."
Publishers Weekly, September 4, 2006, review of Time Traveler, p. 50.
San Diego Union-Tribune, December 24, 2006, Bruce Lieberman, "'Rolling Back the Hands of ‘Time.’"
San Francisco Chronicle, December 20, 2006, Julie Mayeda, "Emotional Core of Physicist's Fixation—Losing Dad at 10."
Science News, December 16, 2006, review of Time Traveler, p. 399.
University of Connecticut, Department of Physics Web site,http://www.physics.uconn.edu/ (March 6, 2007), brief biography of Mallett.