May 26, 2014 — As a man of faith, Jesuit Father George Coyne joined the Jesuits in 1951, studied theology and became a priest. As a man of science, he earned a doctorate in astronomy and became an expert on close binary star systems and Seyfert galaxies. Then for almost three decades, he found the perfect meeting of faith and science at the Vatican Observatory.
Fr. Coyne, a Baltimore native who now serves as the McDevitt Chair of Religious Philosophy at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., was appointed to the Vatican Observatory by Pope John Paul I in 1978. He spent the next three decades splitting his time between the Vatican Observatory administrative headquarters in Vatican City and the offices of the Vatican Observatory Research Group in Tucson, Ariz.
Serving as the observatory's director, Fr. Coyne launched new educational and research initiatives and helped Pope John Paul II work through several endeavors that shaped the church's stand on key scientific questions.
“We [Fr. Coyne and Pope John Paull II] spent 28 years together. From the very first year of his papacy, John Paul II showed a very keen interest in advancing the scientific work of the Vatican Observatory and especially in promoting the dialogue between science and religious faith,” Fr. Coyne said.
Fr. Coyne’s contributions include founding the Vatican Observatory Research Group in Tucson, establishing the Vatican Observatory Summer Schools for young scholars and constructing the Vatican Observatory Advanced Technology Telescope in collaboration with the University of Arizona. He also increased the observatory staff from five to 15 full-time employees, all members of the Society of Jesus.
After retiring from the observatory at the beginning of 2012, Fr. Coyne now teaches general astronomy and religion and science at Le Moyne College. He continues his advocacy for the idea that a religious faith and the scientific method can not only coexist, but complement each other. “I have initiated public lectures on ‘Science and Religion in Modern America,’” said Fr. Coyne. “I am organizing a course for seniors to help in their transition from college as they face issues in society related to the meeting of religious faith with science.” [Source: The Post-Standard]