Re: Information on William G. Pollard, Physicist at Oak Ridge and JASA Author

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Thu Jan 22 2004 - 13:07:49 EST


    I will try to summarize what I know about William G. Pollard (1911-1981). First, let me ask you if the inquirer was Court Randall. If so, what I tell you will not be news to him, as he was Dr. Pollard's associate at Oak Ridge for many years; but others on the list may be interested in what I do know. Pollard was a nuclear physicist who worked on the atomic bomb project at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the 1940s. An atheist from his high school days, someone once challenged him to teach the Old Testament in Sunday school at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Oak Ridge. That led to his conversion. He answered a call to the priesthood, was ordained, and continued in the dual role of priest associate at St. Stephens and physicist-Director of the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies and later the Associated Universities.

    I got to know Fr. Pollard briefly when I was a student at the University of the South, Sewanee, TN. In the summer of 1960 Pollard taught a summer course in the seminary on religion and science. Occasionally I joined him and his family in the dining hall for supper. I don't remember the substance of the conversations, but I remember a man who was both kindly and intellectually impressive. Later, as a new faculty member at Berea College, around 1969, I had the opportunity to hear Bill Pollard give his most famous lecture, "On the Big Bang." Everyone who knew Pollard well can tell you stories about it. He stood on the stage of Phelps-Stokes Chapel at Berea, himself in his clerical collar and black suit, no podium and no notes, and lectured for 45 minutes beginning with the big bang and continuing till he ran out of time, somewhere around the emergence of galaxies I think. It was a bravura performance.

    Pollard was one of the pioneers in the science-religion dialogue and one of a company of Anglican priest-scientists that includes John Polkinghorne and Arthur Peacocke. His 1958 book, _Chance and Providence: God's Action in a World Governed by Scientific Law_ (which I have not read) is one of the earlier publications in the field. A later book, _Physicist and Christian: a dialogue between the communities_ (1961) is a printing of the Paddock Lectures he gave at General Theological Seminary (Episcopal) in 1959. The title summarizes its contents. As a man who lived in both worlds Pollard was an appropriate person to construct such a dialogue.

    A few years ago I attended a Festscrift for Pollard organized by Court Randall at the Associated Universities of Oak Ridge, as a representative from the Episcopal Church Committee on Science, Technology and Faith. In attendence were some twenty-five of Pollard's former associates. The conversation and testimony about Bill Pollard that flowed around the room was filled with affection and admiration for this man, who touched so many both as a physicist and as a Christian.

    I'm a late-comer to the ASA. Perhaps some of the old-timers will have attended the ASA meeting at Calvin College that he spoke at, and may have memories of that event. It would be nice to know what led the organizing committee to invite him to speak.

Bob Schneider
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Jack Haas
  To: ASA list
  Sent: Friday, January 23, 2004 11:17 AM
  Subject: Information on William G. Pollard, Physicist at Oak Ridge and JASA Author


  A biographer of Pollard called today seeking information about his relationship to ASA.
  Beyond what can be obtained from a Google search of the ASA web site, can anyone
  provide additional info on his life, views on science and Christianity, etc. Did any of you meet him. He spoke at the 1968 ASA annual meeting at CalvinCollege.

  Thanks for your help

  Jack Haas
Received on Fri Jan 23 13:07:27 2004

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