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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Brother Astronomer

A book I've been reading lately is Brother Astronomer - Adventures of a Vatican Scientist

The book is written by a Jesuit brother, Guy Consolmagno, who works as an astronomer for the Vatican Observatory.. He spends about half his time at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence outside Rome, where he studies the meteorite collection of which he's the curator. The rest of the time he works at the Vatican's detached facility, an observatory on Graham Mountain in Arizona, in connection with the state University.

- Br. Guy

In the book, he describes his education (degrees from MIT and U of Arizona), his stint in the Peace Corps (in Africa), his call to become a Jesuit, and his work at the observatory. One of the parts I was looking forward to reading about - I had already read of it in Wikipedia - was his trip with ANSMET to Antarctica on a meteorite hunt ...

... there's something so wonderfully mysterious about Antarctica ... Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness ... John Carpenter's The Thing ... the Atlantis base in Stargate SG-1 ... but I digress ...

Here below is a little bit from Br. Guy's arrival in Antarctica ...

In front of us, my inexperienced eyes could only see a blank, featureless, white plain stretching out without relief to an infinite horizon under a piercing blue sky. The emptyness was stunning. In this hollow land, the wind blew through my parka, and through my soul ...

Six hours. Then we came over a crest and saw ... It looked like the deepest, bluest lake I had ever seen in my life. The white snow ran down to the shore like a carol beach, with the blue so deep and bright it hurt our eyes as it stretched out beyond us, rippled and carved like waves frozen in time. We had arrived. It was beautiful ...

- Lake Fryxell, in the Transantarctic Mountains

The book is worth a read ... Brother Astronomer confirms the idea that science and religion need not be atagonists but can actually compliment each other, and Br. Guy makes concrete the Jesuit maxim of finding God in all things.


Blogger cowboyangel said...


I can't believe you posted this today. He's speaking here at the University in just a few hours! Unfortunately, I have to teach a class during this time. I saw the poster for the event the other day and really wanted to go, especially after your earlier post on meteorite hunters. What a bummer!

For the blurb about the event, click here.

9:43 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Guillaume,

Astronomy, God, and the Search for Elegance - it sounds interesting :-) The good thing is, there are loads of interviews with him to be found online ... not as fun as in person, but probably a lot of the same material.

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do they allow such great lectures outside of Manhattan?

1:07 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...


He probably thought he was speaking at CUNY instead of SUNY. Imagine his surprise when he landed at such a beautiful and autumnal campus. Without rats!


Two posts in one day? How do you do it?!?!

7:50 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Columbia has rats?

How do I do it ... it helps to have neither social life nor job :-) but I actually posted the one about Br. Guy the night before.

10:44 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

All of Manhattan has rats. Only the ones at Columbia tend to be more intelligent. And maybe a little more neurotic. And often protesting against other rats.

500 years from now, when the great ahcheaological studies are done of Manhattan, they will say, "Oh, look, we've found evidence that humans once lived in the midst of the Great Rat City."

4:21 AM  

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