Consolmagno, Guy J. 1952-
CONSOLMAGNO, Guy J. 1952-
Born September 19, 1952, in Detroit, MI. Education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, B.S., 1974, M.S. (earth and planetary sciences), 1975; University of Arizona, Ph.D. (planetary science), 1978; Loyola University, Chicago, IL, studied philosophy and theology; University of Chicago, studied physics. Religion: Jesuit.
Author, lecturer, and researcher. Harvard College Observatory, postdoctoral fellow and lecturer, 1978-80; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, postdoctoral fellow and lecturer, 1980-83; U.S. Peace Corps, Kenya, Africa, teacher of physics and astronomy, 1983-85; Lafayette College, Easton, PA, assistant professor of physics, 1985-89; entered Society of Jesus (Jesuit) order, 1989, took vows as Jesuit brother, 1991; Vatican Observatory, Castel Gandolfo, Italy, researcher, 1993—, curator of meteorite collection, 2000—. Loyola College, Baltimore, MD, visiting professor of physics and astronomy; Loyola University, Chicago, IL, visiting professor of physics and astronomy; Goddard Space Flight Center, visiting scientist.
MacLean Chair for visiting Jesuit scholars, St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia, PA, 2000; asteroid named in his honor in recognition of his work in asteroid and meteorite studies (4597 Consolmagno), International Astronomical Union, 2000.
(With Dan M. Davis) Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope and How to Find Them, illustrations by Karen Kotash Sepp and Anne Drogin, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1989, revised 3rd edition, 2000.
(With Martha W. Schaefer) Worlds Apart: A Textbook in Planetary Sciences, Prentice Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1994.
The Way to the Dwelling of Light, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, (Rome, Italy), 1998.
Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 2000.
Author of several dozen scientific publications.
Guy Consolmagno became an astronomer and professor of astronomy before deciding, in 1983, to join the Peace Corps as a way to contribute to the world outside the confines of a university. He was assigned to teach astronomy to university students in Kenya, but he often found himself admiring the night sky through a telescope with ordinary Kenyans during his time off. In 1989 he returned to his devout Catholic upbringing and an early desire to join the Roman Catholic order of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits); he took his vows in 1991. Two years later he was called to the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo, Italy—the pope's summer home—to do astronomical research. A specialist in meteorites, he became curator of the Vatican's meteorite collection, one of the world's largest. Consolmagno divides his time between Castel Gandolfo and the Vatican's observatory on Mount Graham, near Tucson, Arizona, where he studies the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt of planetoids. Often referring to himself as a "missionary of science," he travels widely, has written several books, and was part of an expedition to Antarctica to collect meteorite specimens. An asteroid named for him in honor of his contribution to asteroid and meteorite studies, 4597 Consolmagno, is also known as "Little Guy."
Turn Left at Orion, written by Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis and first published in 1989, is a beginner's guide to finding celestial objects with a small telescope. It breaks the sky into sections visible during specific seasons and uses bright and easily identifiable objects as guideposts for finding nearby stars, nebulae, planets, and galaxies. The moon is featured prominently in the book, since it is the object most easily studied with a small telescope. Each object is illustrated in black and white—as it would appear through a telescope—and glossy white pages make it easy to read at night. Devon G. Crowe, writing in Science Books & Film, noted that the book "will do more" toward providing a good experience for students and amateur astronomers "than the more common approaches using constellations and coordinates on the celestial sphere." William Bruce Weaver, in a review of the second edition for Science Books & Films, concluded that "for many—including casual amateurs—this book will be all they need for several years." Donna Popowich, in the Science Teacher, observed, "This would …be the ideal book for schools that conduct viewing sessions with middle or high school students."
Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist, published in 2000, is a collection of Consolmagno's papers, lectures, and memoirs arranged into twenty essays organized into four main sections: a discussion of meteorites, including his work with the Vatican's meteorite collection; the science-religion conflict in modern culture, with an essay about the early astronomer Galileo's work and his relationship to the Catholic Church; a discussion of the author's own religious beliefs and his theories about extraterrestrial life and the possibility of life-sustaining conditions on other planets and moons; and a humorous account of the author's trip to Antarctica to collect some four hundred new meteorite specimens.
A contributor to Publishers Weekly, although finding some of the scientific discussions "rather technical" and the story of the Antarctica trip lacking "alert word-smithery," concluded, "There's not a whit of posturing in his words, but, instead, a sincerity and enthusiasm that are consistently congenial and infectious." Martha Downs, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, noted that "woven through [the essays] are his convictions that science can help to reveal the complexities of faith and that religion enlivens the pursuit of science." Ray Olson, of Booklist, noted, "Consolmagno contributes vitally to the rapprochement of science and faith." Edwin L. Aguire, writing in Sky and Telescope, found the book's sections to be "woven into a light-hearted, witty, and delightfully entertaining style" that makes for "good, thought-provoking reading during cloudy (or even clear) nights."
In an interview with Richard Vara of the Houston Chronicle, Consolmagno said, "When you peer into a telescope, you are looking into a mirror.… Someone who has the light of God in his soul can't help but see the light of God in the universe." Talking with Dorothy Crawford of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for the film Cosmic Questions, Consolmagno said, "If there's a limit to what is possible to know we haven't bumped up anywhere close to it yet.… Somebody once described knowledge as being like an island. The more you know the bigger the island gets. The bigger the island gets the longer the shoreline.… The more you know the more you realize there is to learn. And if you love learning that's why learning more is so much more fun."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2000, Ray Olson, review of Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist, p. 1182.
Chronicle of Higher Education, July 28, 2000, Martha Downs, review of Brother Astronomer, p. A21.
Houston Chronicle, May 8, 1999, Richard Vara, "Astronomer Looks at the Stars, Sees God," Religion section, p. 1.
Library Journal, March 1, 2000, Michael D. Cramer, review of Brother Astronomer, p. 121.
Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2003, Nicole Winfield, "Vatican's Stargazers Place Faith in Science," p. A3.
Publishers Weekly, November 22, 1999, review of Brother Astronomer, p. 47.
Science Books & Films, September-October, 1990, Devon G. Crowe, review of Turn Left at Orion: A Hundred Night Sky Objects to See in a Small Telescope and How to Find Them, p. 47; January-February, 1996, William Bruce Weaver, review of Turn Left at Orion, p. 10.
Science News, August 26, 1995, Cait Anthony, review of Turn Left at Orion, p. 130; April 8, 2000, Cait Goldberg, review of Brother Astronomer, p. 226.
Science Teacher, November, 2001, Donna Popowich, review of Turn Left at Orion, p. 84.
Sky and Telescope, July, 1995, Stuart J. Goldman, review of Turn Left at Orion, p. 57; November, 2000, Edwin L. Aguire, "Confessions of a Vatican Astronomer," p. 77.
U.S. Catholic, December, 2002, Cathy O'Connell-Cahill, "Putting Faith in the Universe," pp. 26-30.
Barry Swayne Agency Web site,http://www.swayneagency.com/ (October 22, 2003), "Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J."
Brother Guy J. Consolmagno's Home Page,http://homepage.mac.com/brother_guy/ (May 6, 2002), Dorothy Crawford, "Edited Interview with Guy Consolmagno for National Science Foundation-sponsored film Cosmic Questions. "
Vatican Observatory Web site,http://clavius.as.arizona.edu/ (October 22, 2003), "Guy J. Consolmagno, S.J."*