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College of Arts and Sciences

Father Stanley L. Jaki, O.S.B

Fr. Stanley JakiStanley Ladislas Jaki was a world-renowned author, physicist, philosopher, and theologian. He was born in Gyor, Hungary in 1924. He entered the Order of Saint Benedict (O.S.B) in 1942 and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1948. After completing his undergraduate training in philosophy, theology and mathematics in 1947, he went to Rome to do graduate work in theology at the Pontifical Institute of San Anselmo, where he received his doctorate in systematic theology in 1950. His Order would not allow him to return to Hungary which was a Communist country at that time, but instead sent him to the United States as a theology teacher at the School of Theology of Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, PA. He soon realized that a background in science was necessary to properly treat scientific questions posed by theological studies.

In late 1953 he underwent a severe tonsillectomy that deprived him for ten years of the effective use of his vocal chords. This obliged him to suspend his teaching activity, and in his words “condemned to write”. In 1955 he earned a master’s degree and in 1957 a Ph.D. in physics from Fordham University in New York, having as his dissertation advisor, Victor F. Hess, the Nobel laureate discoverer of cosmic rays. In 1960 he moved to Princeton with a fellowship from Seton Hall University and in 1965 joined the Department of Physics faculty of Seton Hall where he went on to attain the rank of Distinguished University Professor of Physics in 1975. Father Jaki was a visiting professor at universities all over the world and delivered the prestigious Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh. During the academic year 1966-67, he was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He lived in or near Princeton for the rest of his life, mainly because of the fact that Princeton has excellent libraries.

In 1966, Father Jaki published his first important work, The Relevance of Physics, and then went on to write and publish more than forty books over a span of more than forty years, covering a wide range of topics, dealing with the history of science, cosmology, theology, ethics, philosophy and biblical studies. In 1987 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for “his immense contribution to bridging the gap between science and religion, and his making room, in the midst of the most advanced modern science, for deep and genuine faith.” In 1990 he was appointed an honorary member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences by Pope John Paul II. In 2009, Father Jaki presented his last lecture at the Casina of Pope Pius IV, headquarters of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. While on his way back home to the United States, Father Jaki pass away on April 7, 2009 in Madrid, Spain.