George Coyne, S.J.

George Coyne, S.J.


Reilly Hall 202
Le Moyne College
1419 Salt Springs Road
Syracuse, NY 13214


(315) 445-4383


George V. Coyne, S.J., retired in 2012 from the Vatican Observatory, where he had served as Director for 28 years, and assumed the McDevitt Distinguished Chair in Religious Philosophy at Le Moyne College. He now holds the McDevitt Distinguished Chair in Physics. At Le Moyne he teaches introductory courses in astronomy and in cosmology in the Department of Physics and a course on science and religion in modern America in the Department of Religious Studies.

His research interests have ranged from the study of the lunar surface, antecedent to the NASA Ranger and Apollo Programs, to the birth of stars. He has pioneered a special technique, polarimetry, as a powerful tool in astronomical research. With this technique he has studied various objects including the interstellar medium, stars with extended atmospheres and Seyfert galaxies, which are a group of spiral galaxies with very small and unusually bright star like centers. He also studied cataclysmic variable stars, binary stars where one star is a superdense object which is capturing matter from its companion. He also searched for protoplanetary disks about young stars. He has published more than 100 articles in reviewed scientific journals and has been the author and editor of a number of books.

Parallel to his scientific research he has developed an interest in the history and philosophy of science and in the relationship between science and religion. Thus he founded the series of studies concerning controversies about Galileo, entitled: Studi Galileiani. He served as the head of the section on epistemology and science of the Galileo Commission, constituted by John Paul II in 1981. He has lectured widely on the results of that Commission. He was one of the principal organizers of a series of conferences on the theme of Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action. These conferences, held over a period of twenty years, resulted in the publication of six volumes which sought an understanding of God’s action in the universe from various fields of natural science, including: quantum cosmology, chaos and complexity, evolutionary and molecular biology, neurosciences and the person, and quantum mechanics.

He is a member of the International Astronomical Union, the American Astronomical Society, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America. He has been awarded the following Ph.D. degrees honoris causa: 1980, St. Peter's University, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA; 1994, Loyola University, Chicago, USA; 1995, University of Padua, Padua, Italy; 1997, Pontifical Theological Academy, Jagellonian University, Cracow; 2005 Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; 2007 Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; 2009, Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York, USA and the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA; 2010 Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California; 2014, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York; 2016, INAOE (National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics), Tonantzintla, Puebla, Mexico. He was awarded the Mendel Medal by Villanova University in September 2008 and the George Van Biesbroeck Prize by the American Astronomical Society in January 2010.


  • 1958, A.B., Mathematics, Fordham University
  • 1958, Licentiate in Philosophy, Fordham University
  • 1962, Ph.D., Astronomy, Georgetown University
  • 1966, Licentiate in Theology, Woodstock College
Positions held:
  • 2012- : McDevitt Distinguished Chair of Religious Philosophy (currently Physics), Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York
  • 2006-2012: Emeritus Director of the Vatican Observatory, President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation
  • 1986-2012: President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation
  • 1979-1980: Acting Director and Head, University of Arizona Observatories, Department of Astronomy
  • 1978-2006: Director of the Vatican Observatory (Specola Vaticana)
  • 1978-1979: Associate Director, University of Arizona Observatories
  • 1977-1978: Director, Catalina Observatory; Associate Director, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona
  • 1976-1980: Senior Research Fellow, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona; Lecturer, Department of Astronomy, University of Arizona
  • 1970-1976:Assistant Professor, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona
  • 1969-2011: Astronomer, Vatican Observatory