Cover image for Brother astronomer : adventures of a Vatican scientist
Brother astronomer : adventures of a Vatican scientist
Consolmagno, Guy, 1952-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : McGraw-Hill, [2000]

Physical Description:
vi, 229 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


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Material Type
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QB36.C76 A3 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Blending memoir, science, history and theology, Guy Consolmagno takes us on this exploration of Vatican science. We tour the Vatican's meteorite collection and learn how astronomy progresses despite its dearth of tactile evidence. It seeks to prove that not all religion is hostile to science.

Author Notes

Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., Ph.D. (Tucson, Arizona and Castel Gandolfo, Italy), is an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory. At the Vatican, he serves as curator of one of the largest meteorite collections in the world. He obtained his Ph.D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona and went on to teach at MIT until 1983, when he joined the Peace Corps.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Consolmagno long had the scientific qualifications to be the pope's astronomer but didn't join the Jesuits, whose bailiwick the Vatican observatory is, until, at age 37, God told him he was ready. After settling in, he concentrated on the Vatican's meteorite collection, continuing his research on what such literally unearthly rocks might reveal; providing plenty about procedure, he traces that research in the first part of his ingratiating memoirs. In the second, he discusses the relationship of religion and science, arguing that because Christianity holds that what God has created, including human rationality, is good, the Catholic Church has always strongly encouraged science, the suppression of Galileo--the only incident of its kind in church history--notwithstanding. In the third part, Consolmagno presents his journey from brainy, devout youth through MIT and academic astronomy to the Jesuits and the Vatican, and in the last he describes, from firsthand experience, what meteorite gathering in Antarctica is like. Congenially conveying both meaty science and meaty theology, Consolmagno contributes vitally to the rapprochement of science and faith. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

It's the last two words of its subtitle that will arouse interest in this amiable book--and deservedly so. Like other Jesuit scientists before him, most notably Teilhard de Chardin, Consolmagno conveys well a passion for science wed to faith in God: two objects of devotion that, as Consolmagno realizes, many see as mutually exclusive. The triumph of his book is its persuasive argument that doing science can be a religious act--"that studying creation is a way of worshipping the creator." Regrettably, that triumph is confined to only a minor portion of the text, which overall, despite its other merits, has a ragtag feel, with Consolmagno moving from a look at his monastic-scientist's routine to discussions of his specialty, the study of meteorites; a history of Galileo's problems with the Church; a mini-autobiography; and Consolmagno's experiences hunting meteorites in Antarctica. And, in fact, the final chapter reveals that much of the book consists of reworked versions of the author's past talks and papers. Other than the brilliant defense of science's place in the religious life (and vice versa), no section of the book excels, though all are serviceable. The hard science discussions are elegant but rather technical; the Antarctic narrative, while enjoyable enough, lacks the alert wordsmithery of the practiced storyteller; and some of Consolmagno's statements, such as that all of Western science's achievements result "from the Incarnation," are so bald as to deny anyone but a devout Christian any grip. Even so, the book works, and well, for Consolmagno is a charming writer, witty, self-deprecating and, above all, genuine. There's not a whit of posturing in his words, but, instead, a sincerity and enthusiasm that are consistently congenial and infectious. 60,000 first printing; author tour. (Mar.) FYI: Brother Astronomer launches McGraw-Hill's ambitious new trade science program, which in the year 2000 will publish books by, among others, Ellen J. Prager, Alan Lightman and Joel de Rosnay. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Consolmagno, a Jesuit brother for the past ten years, has spent 25 years as an astronomer. He is now at the Vatican Observatory, where he curates one of the largest meteorite collections in the world. Consolmagno's book is an uneven mix of memoir, science, and religion; four large sections cover meteorites and comets, the perceived rift between science and theology, his life's path leading up to the decision to join the Jesuits, and his recent participation in a scientific mission to the Antarctic. The threads connecting these disparate topics are clear, deft writing and a mind at home with science and faith. However the four sections, while interesting in themselves (the last one on Antarctica is especially wonderful), do not make a cohesive whole. In addition, parts of the text were conference presentations or previously published articles, adding to the book's cut-and-paste feel. Recommended for larger collections.--Michael D. Cramer, Cigna Healthcare, Raleigh, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Consolmagno, an astronomer who became a Jesuit Brother and who is now at the Vatican Observatory, offers a memoir with a major premise stated early on, i.e., that the universe is only worth study because it was created by God. This is not likely to make or lose converts either way, as the rationale for scientific research can be based on a number of premises. The balance of the book swings between the author's own research and personal experiences, and the case for a reconciliation between science and religion. If his research into the composition of meteorites gets a bit technical in spots, the balance, particularly his experiences in Antarctica, is enjoyable. A measured account of the activities of a contemporary Jesuit astronomer is placed alongside an account of the Galileo affair. His case for empathy and common cause between science and religion is tendentious at times and not always convincing. He addresses the devout and the confirmed atheist, but has less for the many who neither know nor particularly care about a supreme being. They may view the author's thesis as only more proselytizing along familiar lines. Nevertheless, the book is a rewarding experience for readers of all ages. All levels. A. R. Upgren; Wesleyan University

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Day in the Lifep. 1
Part 1 Upon These Rocks
Aliens at the Vaticanp. 13
The Case of the Fiery Fingersp. 29
The Vindication of Marsp. 47
Part 2 The Confession of a Vatican Scientist
Precursors of Evilp. 61
The Rift of Popular Culturep. 81
Finding God in Creationp. 99
Part 3 Once in a Lifetime
Holes in the Sandp. 115
Call and Responsep. 127
Justice in the Oceans of Europap. 137
Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?p. 149
Part 4 Wide Wild Whiteness
Well Met at Ansmetp. 157
Erebus and Terrorp. 165
Soul on Icep. 173
The Easter Egg Huntp. 181
Walking in Heavenp. 191
We've Got Companyp. 201
Acquainted with All My Waysp. 207
Hunting the White Elephantp. 211
Northward Ho! The Wagonsp. 215
About This Bookp. 225