Rev. George Coyne, SJ, Ph.D.
Astronomer and former Director of the Vatican Observatory
Topic: “Faith and Science: Is There a Problem”
Fr. George Coyne SJ was born in 1933, in Baltimore, Maryland, and joined the Jesuits in 1951. He obtained his B.S. in mathematics and his licentiate in philosophy at Fordham University, New York City in 1958; he earned his PhD in astronomy in 1962 from Georgetown University and completed the licentiate in sacred theology at Woodstock College, Maryland in 1965 when he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest.
Following his doctoral work he continued his astronomical research at Harvard University and at the Lunar Planetary Laboratory (LPL) of the University of Arizona (UA). He taught at the University of Scranton and in the Department of Astronomy at the UA.
In the 1970s he served as director of the University of Arizona’s Catalina Observatory, Associate Director of the Steward Observatory and the Lunar Planetary Laboratory, and as acting director of the astronomy department of University of Arizona.
As director of the Vatican Observatory (1978-2006), he founded the Vatican Observatory Summer School, and the Vatican Observatory Research Group. Currently, he is President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation.
Fr. Coyne has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from St. Peter’s College, Jersey City; Loyola University Chicago; University of Padua, Italy; Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland; Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Boston College; Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York; the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts; Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California. Also among his honors has been the naming of asteroid 14429 Coyne after him.
Fr. Coyne’s research interests have been in polarimetric studies of various subjects including the interstellar medium, stars with extended atmospheres and Seyfert galaxies. Most recently he has been studying the polarization produced in cataclysmic variables, or interacting binary star systems that give off sudden bursts of intense energy.
He has been active in promoting the dialogue between science and religion and pioneered the series of conferences on “Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action.” He has also been active in the continuing debate about the religious implications of scientific evolution. Fr. Coyne is a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Astronomical Society, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America and the Pontifical Academy of Science.
In January 2012 Fr. Coyne left the Vatican Observatory to take up a chair at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY, where he is teaching astronomy and developing a lecture series regarding the science and religion dialogue.