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Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist Paperback – February 12, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

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
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 229 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies (February 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0071372318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0071372312
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #848,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Brad4d VINE VOICE on May 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
(Brother)(Dr) Guy Consolmagno has given us a delightful book, obviously written by someone who has comfortably lived (and uncomfortably adventured) in the two worlds of scientific and religious inquiry. The author discusses his infectious enthusiasm for both "worlds," although he doesn't think there is an essential line between the two. During the course of this book, you will travel to the ends of the earth to look for fragments of another world, understand why serendipity (and a good high school English teacher) are often major parts of a successful big-league scientific presentation, and learn why the Vatican maintains one of the world's best meteorite collections (in a home built by the pope who helped condemn Galileo). You will also find how Dr C answered the "killer question" -- namely, why care a fiddle or a fig about the makeup of Jupiter's moons, when people are suffering on earth? (Dr C mentions he briefly gave up science, joined the Peace Corps to directly help starving people, wound up teaching science to Kenyan students, and came away convinced that scientific development can provide one of the soundest foundations for preventing ignorance and starvation. It can also provide a sound foundation for religious understanding). Dr C discusses how the established church helped found modern science and scientific thinking (Galileo's trial was a correctable aberration, just like the regrettable dark alleyways occasionally taken by scientific minds). The established church and science have traditionally been partners in seeking methodological and insightful understanding, appreciating truth in our world, and combating ignorance and superstition.Read more ›
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By JC on May 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Following are just some of the things this small book manages to be:
An autobiography tracing a career in science and a path toward a religious calling.
A discussion of meteor and planetary science.
An adventure set against the harshness of Antarctica.
A discussion of the Occidental attitude toward nature which has led to the historical development of the scientific method.
A meditation on life as a gift and love superceding both obligation and duty as a motive for action.
Finally, a gentle reminder that the threadbare proposition that science is incompatible with religious belief is far too facile and much too simple. Brother Consolmagno portrays a reality that is more complex, more ambiguous and flat out more interesting.
By the way, it's all related with a winning sense of humor
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By George A. Reynolds on January 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Many of you have read - or have a copy of - Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno, an entertaining and instructive guide for amateur astronomers with small telescopes. No less entertaining is his book, Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist, in which Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno tells his life story in brief, and in more detail discusses Mars rocks, Antarctica adventures, and science/religion issues.

With grace and good humor he tells of his becoming curator of the Vatican's collection of meteorites, one of the oldest collections in the world, mostly amassed in the nineteenth century by French nobleman Marquis de Mauroy. Consolmagno and his associates devised a method to determine the mass, the density, and the porosity of meteorites, which lead to theories on where meteorites come from - asteroids and other planets. He calls them his outer space "aliens" at the Vatican.

His real adventures are recounted with good-natured wit in the section titled "Wide Wild Whiteness", a meteorite-hunting expedition with other scientists on the bottom of the world in Antarctica. He makes the vast, cold continent seem to come alive in its bleak expanse and extremes of cold and wind. The personal interaction among the small group of individuals forced to spend six weeks together in that harsh frigid environment is insightful, at times poignant and other times hilarious. Everyone on the team has a specialty, and he often wonders, "Why am I here?" They bring home a treasure trove of 390 meteorites. It is fascinating to learn how they go to great pains to preserve the pristine condition of the space rocks. To collect them without contaminating them is a real challenge, especially under subzero temperatures, where the cold dulls the mind and freezes the fingers.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By B. F. Mooney on June 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Brother Astronomer is a delightful romp into the life of a joyful and spirit-filled man. Brother Guy exemplifies the bridging of the purported gap between faith and science; in his writing and his life and his combination of these two vocations he belies the simplistic and all-too glib pronouncements so many trot out about the rift between science and religion. Whether you come to this book from the religous or scientific side, read it with an open mind and heart, the way it was written.
Brother Guy writes with considerable insight and frankness, and will certainly make some people most uncomfortable as he demonstrates some convincing parallels betweeen science and religion. Those who quickly dismiss his comments on this similarity simply reveal that they were ready to do so a priori, even before opening the pages of this book. He handles science and religion in an even-handed, balanced and refreshingly gentle manner, and I admire his intellectual and spiritual integrity, how he never forgets there is one truth underlying everything, and that this truth will be what it is, and not simply what we want it to be.
His book is undoubted going to be equally unacceptable to both scientific as well as religious fundamentalists, two groups which possess in common a remarkable ignorance of both religion and science.
As a professional academic scientist and believer in God who has never had any problem reconciling the two equally profound sides of my life, I may be prejudiced in my approach to this book. But I don't think so. So set your judgementalness aside when you pick up Brother Astronomer. Read it, enjoy it, go with the flow of the book and take delight in the time you spend with this delightful man.
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