Astronomer Royal Martin Rees to lecture on mysteries of universe April 11

Astronomer Royal Martin Rees will deliver the University of Chicago 2011 Brinson Lecture, titled “From Big Bang to Biospheres,” at 6 p.m. Monday, April 11 at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The public is invited to this free event at the MacLean Ballroom, 112 S. Michigan Ave., which is co-sponsored by UChicago and SAIC with support from the Brinson Foundation. Serving as moderator will be Gabriel Spitzer, who covers science, health and the environment for WBEZ radio.

Advanced technology has enabled astronomers to trace cosmic history back to the big bang nearly 14 billion years ago, and begin to understand the emergence of atoms, galaxies, stars and planets, and how life developed a complex biosphere on Earth. In his illustrated lecture, Rees will discuss some of the new questions posed by these advances: What does the long-range future hold? How widespread is life in the cosmos? Is it surprising that physical laws permitted the emergence of complexity? And is physical reality even more extensive than what telescopes can probe?


Rees is master of Trinity College, Cambridge and former director of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge and of the Royal Society. The author of eight books and many research publications, he has lectured widely in the United States, Europe and the Far East. His research interests include cosmology, galaxy formation, black holes and high-energy phenomena in the universe.

On April 6, Rees accepted the Templeton Prize, which is worth one million British pounds and awarded annually to a scholar or individual who has made “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” The Templeton Foundation noted that Rees, who says he has no religious beliefs, has made major contributions to “big questions” in cosmology that have scientific, philosophical and theological implications.

A foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and several other foreign academies, Rees also is a member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords.