ann21046 — Announcement

Ewine van Dishoeck
25 August 2021
IAU President Ewine van Dishoeck Appointed to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences

Earlier this month, Pope Francis appointed IAU President Ewine van Dishoeck to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, an international academy of 80 leading scientists from around the world. Previous members have included Nobel Prize winners such as Ernest Rutherford, Max Planck and Niels Bohr.

“It is a great honour,” she says. “The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has only 80 members and, as far as I know, no academy is as global as the Vatican Academy.”

The academy’s mission is “to honour pure science wherever it may be found, ensure its freedom and encourage research for the progress of science”. Members are chosen by the Pope, with the aim of representing the full spectrum of sciences and the global scientific community.

Ewine van Dishoeck’s area of expertise is astrochemistry. Through her pioneering observational, theoretical and laboratory work, she has shed light on the chemistry of interstellar clouds and the formation of stars and planets. Her research is highly relevant to the question of whether or not life exists elsewhere in the Universe. She has also advanced astronomy through her active involvement in the planning of new observing facilities such as Herschel and ALMA.

Ewine van Dishoeck has won many awards for her contributions to science and astronomy, including the Dutch Spinoza Prize in 2000, the Albert Einstein World Award of Science in 2015, the 2018 Watson Medal of the US National Academy of Sciences, the Kavli Prize in 2018, the Karl Schwarschild Medal, and the 2020 Jules Janssen Prize.

As a member of the Pontifical Academy, Ewine van Dishoeck will attend its biennial plenary session, as well as participating in symposia and workshops addressing global issues. “For me, this is an opportunity to put certain themes on the map,” she says, “such as the importance of fundamental science for  sustainable development.”

Ewine van Dishoeck believes that science and religion can be complementary, rather than conflicting perspectives. “Religion and science are both searching for the truth,” she says. “I see the Universe as a big book: just like us scientists, religion is also reading that book.”

More information

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 12 000 active professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world's largest professional body for astronomers.


Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Press Officer
Cell: +1 520 461 0433

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Ewine van Dishoeck