Posted by: gcarkner | October 21, 2016

Tom McLeish @ St. John’s College



Durham University

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (2008-14)

Professor in the  Department of Physics and Department of Chemistry

Member of the  Biophysical Sciences Institute and the  Centre for Materials Physics

Durham Centre for Soft Matter (DCSM) and Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Awarded Weissenberg Medal and Bingham Medal for Molecular Rheology of Polymers

Currently Chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee

Published over 180 scientific Papers and Reviews

PhD in Polymer Physics Cambridge University

Research Interests: (i) Molecular Rheology of Polymeric Fluids);

(ii) Macromolecular Biological Physics; (iii) Issues of Theology, Ethics and History of Science

Author of Faith & Wisdom in Science OUP 2014

A Medieval Big Bang Theory – an Interdisciplinary Tale.

St. John’s College Lounge, UBC

Free Pizza Dinner at 6:00 p.m.

Sign up now at:! 

Faith and Wisdom in Science blog:


Tom McLeish also speaks at GFCF on Wednesday, November 2 at 4 pm

Woodward (IRC) Room 6

Topic: The Deep Structure of Modern Science: the Search for Wisdom



For the English polymath, Robert Grosseteste, light was the fundamental first form that gave dimensionality and stability to the material world. In a dozen scientific treatises written in the early 13th Century, he postulated a physics of light, colour and the rainbow.  In his De luce (on light) he extends it to the origin of the Universe in what has been referred to as the ‘Medieval Big Bang’. His arguments are so taut that they can be translated into mathematics – our resulting numerical simulations show that Grosseteste’s model does actually work. He also described the method for developing a universal principle from repeated observations under controlled conditions and argued that the explanation needing fewer suppositions and premises was the best.  In his theory of colour, we have found through close examination of the manuscript evidence for his De colore (on colour) and his De iride (on the rainbow) and a mathematical analysis of their content, that he presents the first three-dimensional theory of perceptual colour space. In this talk, Tom McLeish introduces Robert Grossteste (ca 1170-1253), the scientist, teacher, theologian and bishop and describes how a unique collaborative research approach has revealed new insights into his thought, particularly on light. An interdisciplinary team of historians, scientists, linguists and philosophers has developed techniques of joint reading of the medieval texts that have shown them to be logically consistent and founded on mathematically based models. We reflect on how a study of this extraordinary medieval science can help throw fresh light on the history of scientific thought, and bridge the current perception gap between the study of science and humanities.


Tom McLeish is a very accomplished prize-winning biophysics professor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (2008-2014) at the highly ranked University of Durham in the UK. In 2011 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.  He served as Vice-President of Science and Innovation in the Institute of Physics 2012-2015, and is currently chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee. Tom did a first degree in physics and PhD (1987) in polymer physics at Cambridge University.  A lectureship at Sheffield University in complex fluid physics was followed by a chair at Leeds University from 1993.  He has since won several awards both in Europe (Weissenberg Medal) and the USA (Bingham Medal) for his work on molecular rheology of polymers, and ran a large collaborative and multidisciplinary research program in this field from 1999-2009 co-funded by EPSRC and industry. His research interests include: (i) molecular rheology of polymeric fluids); (ii) macromolecular biological physics; (iii) issues of theology, ethics and history of science.  He has published over 180 scientific papers and reviews. Throughout, he has also maintained an interest in public engagement with science, science policy and public values including the underlying, but often hidden, public narratives of science. He has been especially interested in the potential for theological narratives to inform debates in science and technology, both explicitly and implicitly. In 2014, he published a ground breaking book called Faith and Wisdom in Science (Oxford University Press). He has been a Reader in the Anglican Church since 1993, in the dioceses of Ripon and York. 

Support and Sponsorship: Templeton World Charity Foundation, UBC Murrin Fund, Oikodome Foundation, Canadian Science & Christian Affiliation, Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum, Graduate Christian Union

Tom McLeish’s scientific research over the last 25 years has contributed to the formation of the new field of ‘soft matter physics’. Interdisciplinary work with chemists, chemical engineers and biologists has sought to connect molecular structure and behaviour with emergent material or biological properties. He has also worked intensively with industrial researchers developing molecular design tools for new polymeric (plastic) materials, leading large national and international programs, with personal contributions mostly theoretical. Throughout he has also maintained an interest in public engagement with science, science policy and public values including the underlying, but often hidden, public narratives of science. He has been especially interested in the potential for theological narratives to inform debates in science and technology, both explicitly and implicitly.

About Tom McLeish’s Book: Faith & Wisdom in Science


Faith and Wisdom in Science presents science as the current flourishing of a very old and deeply human story. Weaving material from the modern science of the unpredictable together with ancient biblical and historical material it takes a fresh approach to the ‘science and religion’ debate – taking a scientist’s reading of the enigmatic and beautiful Book of Job as a centrepiece, and asking what science might ultimately be for. It makes the case for a story as human as any other – pain, love, desire, reconciliation, risk and healing emerge as surprising ingredients without which science is rootless. Rather than conflicting with faith, science can be seen as a deeply religious activity. There are urgent messages for the way we both celebrate and govern science.

McLeish delivers a picture of science as a questioning discipline nested within a much older, wider set of questions about the world, as represented by the searches for wisdom and a better understanding of creation in the books of Genesis, in Proverbs, in the letters of St Paul, in Isaiah and Hosea but most of all in that wonderful hymn to earth system science known as the Book of Job.

“This unique book is for those who are tired of the usual debates over science and religion. It is an intriguing read that includes stories from the lab about the quirkiness of scientific discovery, a deep meditation on the book of Job, and reflections on the current role of science in society. McLeish offers a thought-provoking view of the place of chaos and suffering in a universe under God’s control.”  ~Deborah Haarsma, President of BioLogos

“Tom McLeish’s engaging passion for science is matched by his unique ability to help the reader locate science in a complex and enriching relationship with ancient texts and stories, contemporary culture and the big questions of human existence.” ~David Wilkinson, Durham University

Other Key Books on Science & Religion

Polkinghorne, Sir John, One World: The Interaction of Science & Theology. Princeton. (physicist/theologian—leading light)

Polkinghorne, Sir John, Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of ScienceReligion, Science and Providence.

Plantinga, Alvin. Where the Conflict Really Lies: science, religion and naturalism. OUP, 2012.

Gingerich, Owen, God’s Universe.  Oxford Mathematician/Philosopher Dr John Lennox

Collins, Francis, The Language of God. Free Press.

Sir Karl R. Popper & John C. Eccles, The Self and its Brain. Routledge.

Pascal, Blaise.  Pensees.  Trans. A. J. Krailsheimer.  Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1966.

Capell & Cook eds., Not Just Science: Questions Where Christian Faith and Natural Science Intersect. Zondervan

Jaki, Stanley, The Road to Science and the Ways to God. Chicago (Gifford

Lectures on history of science)

Russell, Colin, Crosscurrents: Interactions Between Science & Faith. Eerdmans

Danielson, Dennis ed., The Book of the Cosmos. Perceus.

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