Father Stanley Jaki: Benedictine priest, physicist and theologianStanley Jaki, a Benedictine priest and a physicist, was best known for his scholarly contributions to the philosophy of science and theology. In 1987 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for his work on analysing “the importance of differences as well as similarities between science and religion, adding significant, balanced enlightenment to the field”.
The £1 million annual prize, established in 1972 by the philanthropistentrepreneur Sir John Templeton, is awarded to a person who “has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works”, and previous winners include Mother Teresa and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Stanley Ladislas Jaki was born in Gyor, Hungary, in 1924. He attended the Jedlik Preparatory School and Junior College in Gyor and, in 1942, entered the Benedictine Order, living in the St Martin’s Archabbey in Pannonhalma, Hungary. His brothers Zeno and Theodose Jaki, both Benedictine priests, still live at the abbey.
Completing his undergraduate training in philosophy, theology and mathematics in 1947, he went to the Pontifical Institute of San Anselmo, Rome, where, in 1950, he received a doctorate in theology. He had been ordained in 1948.
In 1951 he joined the School of Theology of St Vincent College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, as a teacher of systematic theology. At the same time he took courses in mathematics and sciences, US history, and literature to obtain US recognition of the undergraduate courses that he did in Hungary. In 1954 he received his bachelor’s degree from St Vincent College.
He lost his voice after an operation to remove his tonsils and would not get it back for a number of years. This forced him to give up teaching and he went to Fordham University (the Jesuit University of New York) to do research in physics for a PhD, supervised by Victor Hess, the Nobel laureate who, with Carl David Anderson, discovered cosmic rays. His thesis, published in June 1958, was entitled A Study of the Distribution of Radon, Thoron and their Decay Products Above and Below the Ground.
In 1958-60 he conducted research in the history and philosophy of physics at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. He then went to Princeton as a visiting fellow in the history and philosophy of science. In 1962-65 he wrote the The Relevance of Physics, an important historical analysis of the limitations of the scientific method within physics and within philosophy and theology.
In 1965 he obtained a post at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. During the academic year 1966-67 he was associated with the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. In 1975 he was appointed Distinguished University Professor at Seton Hall University.
Jaki was a co-founder, with six other Hungarian priests, of the Woodside Priory, Portola Valley, California, where he served as bookkeeper, 1957-60. He left the priory when it merged with one in New Hampshire.Jaki strongly believed in the conjunction between faith and reason and argued that science flourished in Europe because of the Christian understanding of creation and the Incarnation. But he cannot be called a creationist in total agreement with fundamentalists who strictly adhere to the Bible, especially the story in Genesis.
In an interview with The New York Times he said: “I believe there is a basic misunderstanding which has existed for hundreds of years and will continue to persist about the ‘creationist problem’ because in intellectual life we do not solve such dilemmas to the satisfaction of everybody.” In his opinion religion and science were compatible and reinforced each other.
Jaki received numerous honours. He gave the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 1974-75 and 1975-76 — one of the highest honours in Scottish academia; his lectures were published as The Road of Science and the Ways of God.Jaki was a prolific author, publishing more than 40 books, hundreds of articles, reviews, chapters and lectures. His books, many of them analysing the relationships between modern science and orthodox Christianity, reflect the extraordinary range of his interests and his exceptional abilities. Among them are: The Relevance of Physics (1966); Brain, Mind and Computers (1969); The Milky Way: an Elusive Road for Science (1973); Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe (1974); Miracles and Physics (1989); God and the Cosmologists (1989); and Bible and Science (1996).
In addition, he wrotes studies of G. K. Chesterton, Pierre Duhem, the French mathematician, physicist and historian of science, and Cardinal Newman, and he translated some important works, including the first English version of a study of Copernicus (1975) and Immanuel Kant’s Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens (1775/1981).
In addition to numerous honorary doctorates, scholarly prizes and memberships of learned societies in many countries, Jaki lectured widely and participated in seminars and conferences all over the world. He was awarded the Lecomte du Nouy Prize and Medal (1970), and the Széchenyi Medal of the Széchenyi Társaság (Hungary, 1997).
For all his immense recognition in scholarly circles, Jaki’s groundbreaking work on science, philosophy, ethics, religion and culture has undoubtedly had a considerable influence and relevance that have yet to be adequately recognised.
Father Stanley Jaki, priest, physicist, theologian and scholar, was born on August 17, 1924. He died on April 7, 2009, aged 84
Books by Stanley L. Jaki at Amazon:Books by Fr. Jaki at Amazon:
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Books by Jaki:
1966. The Relevance of Physics. University of Chicago Press.
1969. Brain, Mind and Computers. Herder & Herder.1969. The Paradox of Olbers' Paradox. Herder & Herder.
1973. The Milky Way: an Elusive Road for Science. New York: Science History Publications.
1974. Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating Universe. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.
1978. Planets and Planetarians. A History of Theories of the Origin of Planetary Systems. John Wiley & Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.
1978. The Road of Science and the Ways to God. Univ. of Chicago Press, and Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press. ISBN 0-226-39145-0
1978. The Origin of Science and the Science of its Origins. Scottish Academic Press.
1980. Cosmos and Creator. Scottish Academic Press. ISBN 0-7073-0285-4
1983. Angels, Apes and Men. La Salle IL: Sherwood, Sugden & Co. ISBN 0-89385-017-9
1984. Uneasy Genius. The Life and Work of Pierre Duhem. The Hague: Nyhoff.
1986. Chesterton, a Seer of Science. University of Illinois Press.
1986. Lord Gifford and His Lectures. A Centenary Retrospective. Edinburgh: Scottish Academis Press, and Macon, GA.: Mercer University Press.
1986. Chance or Reality and Other Essays. Lanham, MD: University Press of America & Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
1988. The Absolute Beneath the Relative and Other Essays. Lanham, MD: University Press of America & Intercollegiate Studies Institute.
2000 (1988). The Savior of Science. W. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-4772-2
See also, Stanley L. Jaki: Commemorations of his life and works