Known as ‘the Pope’s Astronomer’, Guy Consolmagno has in recent years contributed greatly to the world of science.
Guy Consolmagno was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1952, where he attended a Jesuit high school. At Massachusetts Institute of Technology he studied planetary science, received his bachelor’s and masters degrees before moving to the University of Arizona to earn his PhD. He then spent several years teaching at Harvard and M.I.T. before joining the Peace Corps, with whom he spent two years teaching astronomy and physics in Kenya.
Back in America Consolmagno continued teaching, before entering the Society of Jesus in 1989. Upon taking his vows as a brother two years later, he studied philosophy and theology before being assigned to the Vatican Observatory, given his expertise in the area of astronomy. He was made curator of the meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, which is one of the largest in the world, and has travelled as far as Antarctica to locate meteorite to study and add to the collection. In recognition of his work, an asteroid, 4597 Consolmagno, was named in his honour.
In an interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, Brother Consolmagno speaks of the relationship between religion and science: “On the one hand you have religion – truth that’s seeking understanding, and science – which is understanding seeking truth. Of course, they’re on the same road and they meet as they go past each other. If you’re a person of faith and a person of science, you get to do both. You get to appreciate the things we can measure in terms of the things we can’t”.
As well as being renowned for his academic work, Consolmagno is a highly regarded public speaker. In 2014, the American Astronomical Society awarded him the Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public. As well as having published over forty scientific papers, he has co-authored five books, discussing science and religion together. Appointed the director of the Vatican Observatory in 2015, Guy Consolmagno continues to research and write.
He says, “Some of the most moving moments I’ve had have not been as a professional but simply as a fellow with two eyes. Anyone can walk outside and look at the stars”.