When you think of famous public science communicators, Jesuit astronomers might not immediately spring to mind, but you can find one discussing the scientific and philosophical aspects of the question, “Why did the Universe begin?” in The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time exhibition at the Adler Planetarium. In fact, Br./Dr. Guy Consolmagno, SJ has ties to several Chicago institutions, including the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and Loyola University Chicago, to name just a few! He has also been a guest of honor at several science fiction conventions and has appeared on the popular Colbert Report.
On July 2, 2014, Br./Dr. Consolmagno was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science by the American Astronomical Society. The reasons listed for choosing him to receive this award include his “decades-long track record of communicating planetary science to the public while maintaining an active science career” and his “unique position within our profession as a credible spokesperson for scientific honesty within the context of religious belief.” Br./Dr. Consolmagno is identified as “a rational spokesperson who can convey exceptionally well how religion and science can co-exist for believers.”
Coincidentally, I first learned Br./Dr. Consolmagno had received this award while checking my email at the Clavius Symposium at the University of Notre Dame this month. This symposium was dedicated to the memory of Fr./Dr. William Stoeger, SJ, a Vatican Observatory cosmologist who passed away earlier this year. Br./Dr. Consolmagno writes of Fr. Bill, “I could say that he was both the smartest man and the holiest man I have known, but he would have rejected that characterization out of hand. So I will only say that his goodness and his genius never ceased to move me. He's the only person I know who could both understand and work with the mathematics of the Big Bang, and also direct retreats for women Religious."
Br./Dr. Consolmagno will present a public lecture at the Adler Planetarium on November 18, 2014, where he will also sign copies of his new book, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?... and Other Questions from the Astronomers’ In-Box at the Vatican Observatory (co-authored with Fr. Paul Mueller, SJ). The book will be released on October 7, 2014. Stay tuned for more information about Br./Dr. Consolmagno's event at at the Adler.
Written by Dr. Grace Wolf-Chase, astronomer at the Adler Planetarium.