Ian Barbour to Receive Colman Barry Award

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April 5, 1999

Collegeville, Minn. - Saint John's University will present The Fr. Colman J. Barry Award for Distinguished Contributions to Religion and Society to Ian Barbour. Barbour is the Winifred and Atherton Bean Professor of Science, Technology and Society Emeritus at Carleton College. The award presentation is scheduled for Friday, April 16, at 8 p.m. in the SJU Stephen B. Humphrey Theater as part of the annual Fellows Day celebration. The title of Barbour's lecture is "Science, Technology and the Christian Tradition." SJU will also hold a dedication of its new and renovated science facilities and the public announcement of its science facilities campaign as part of the day's events.

Barbour recently won the $1.24 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which is the world's richest annual award. Barbour won the Templeton Prize for his work on the dialogue between science and religion. He has also examined ethical issues raised by technology. Begun in 1972 by the renowned global investor Sir John Templeton, the prize is given each year to a living person who has shown extraordinary originality in advancing humankind's understanding of God and/or spirituality. Past winners include Mother Theresa and the Rev. Billy Graham.

"We are pleased that Professor Barbour will be us for this special day as an example of the leadership and exploration into religion and society that Fr. Colman Barry displayed throughout his life," said SJU President Dietrich Reinhart OSB.

Barbour's Issues in Science and Religion, published in 1965, has been credited with literally creating the contemporary field of science and religion. Barbour has also written and spoken extensively about ethical issues arising from the technological applications of science. As a physicist and theologian familiar with both these disciplines, which had long been considered separate domains, his writings have influenced an entire generation of scientists, religious scholars, church leaders and laity.

Barbour received a degree in physics from Swarthmore College and a master's degree in physics from Duke University in 1946. Barbour enrolled at the University of Chicago and served as a teaching assistant to Enrico Fermi, the Italian-born physicist who had carried out the world's first atomic chain reaction in Chicago. Barbour pursued research in high-energy physics. In 1949, he completed his doctorate in physics.

From there, Barbour joined the physics department at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, becoming department chair in 1951 at age 28. Around this time, his research reports and articles began to appear in scientific journals.

Two years later, Barbour took a step that would change his life, and the worlds of science and religion, forever. Enrolling in Yale Divinity School, he studied theology, philosophy and ethics. During his summers he did additional work at Union Theological Seminary in New York. By 1956 he had earned a divinity degree from Yale.

In 1955, Barbour accepted an offer from Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., that presaged the unique career that lay ahead: he was appointed to teach in both the physics department and the religion department. Within a few years, he was chair of the religion department.

Barbour's many books and articles have compared methods of inquiry in science and religion, and explored the theological implications of the Big Bang, quantum physics, evolutionary biology, and genetics. Over the years he has also written and lectured widely on ethical issues in such fields as technology policy, energy, agriculture, computers and cloning. In the 1970s he initiated an interdisciplinary program in Science, Technology and Public Policy at Carleton, and spent a year as Lilly Visiting Professor at Purdue.

The Fr. Colman J. Barry Award recognizes the contributions that the Rev. Barry, a Benedictine monk of Saint John's Abbey, made during his life of scholarship and teaching. The author of several books, including his three-volume Readings in Church History and Worship and Work, the Rev. Barry began his teaching career at Saint John's in 1952. He died in 1994.

The Rev. Barry played a role in the establishment of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at Saint John's, and was responsible for the creation of the Jay Phillips Chair in Jewish Studies, the first such chair at an American Catholic college. His creative leadership set the roots on the SJU campus for Minnesota Public Radio, which has grown to become one of the top public radio networks in the nation.

For more information about the Colman Barry Award, call 320-363-2595 or 1-800-635-7303.

Saint John's University for men and the College of Saint Benedict for women are partners in liberal arts education, providing students the opportunity to benefit from the distinctions of not one, but two nationally recognized Catholic, undergraduate colleges. Together the colleges challenge students to live balanced lives of learning, work, leadership and service in a changing world.