List of Famous Theists in Physics

Theism is the belief in the existence of god specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe.

famous theists believers in physics

This is the third post from a series of three articles in which religious views of well-known scientists will be listed. The other two posts, you may guess, will celebrate atheists and agnostics in the field of physics. You ready for this?

But first, a brief note on history: the word theism was first used in the 1600s by English theologian Ralph Cudworth who said, "we are strictly and properly called theists, who affirm, that a perfectly conscious understanding being, or mind, existing of itself from eternity, was the cause of all other things."


Robert Millikan

He was an American experimental physicist who was honored with the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1923 for his measurement of the elementary electric charge. He wrote about the reunion of science and religion in books like Evolution in Science and Religion.

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He was the son of Reverend Silas Franklin Millikan. As an active Christian, Millikan found religious significance in his studies of the cosmic rays, as he did in his other research, concluding that the “creator is still on the job." He remained theist all his adult life.


Johannes Kepler

He was a German astronomer and mathematician who laid out the three laws of planetary motion with the help of his and Tycho Brahe's observations of the night sky. Kepler's belief that God created the cosmos in orderly fashion caused him to attempt to determine and comprehend the laws that govern the natural world.

famous theists believers in physics

He said, "Those laws of nature are within the grasp of the human mind; God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts." Kepler was an outstanding mathematician especially in the studies of geometry, he once claimed, "geometry is one and eternal shining in the mind of God."


Isaac Newton

He was the most prominent scientist during the scientific revolution. By the age of 26 he had discovered the universal law of gravitation, laws of motion and invented a new branch of mathematics, calculus. Newton was a practicing Christian.

famous theists believers in physics

He said, "We account the scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure remarks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatever." Then when asked why he studied sciences, Newton replied, "He is the God of order and not of confusion."


Abdus Salam

He was a Pakistani theoretical physicist who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics for his contribution to the electroweak unification theory. Abdus Salam was an Ahmadi Muslim who saw his religion as a fundamental part of his scientific work.

famous theists believers in physics

He once wrote that "the Holy Quran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah's created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart."


Philip Lenard

Lenard was a Hungarian-German experimental physicist and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1905. His pioneering research on cathode rays and their properties led to the development of the early television.

famous theists believers in physics

Lenard was born and raised with Christian practices and values because his parents Phillip and Antonie were deeply religious. But he was swept along in a wave of Nazism that accompanied the World War I, became anti-semetic and hostile towards what he claimed was "Jewish Physics."


Max Born

He was a German physicist and mathematician who was influential in the development of quantum mechanics. He also made contributions to solid-state physics and optics, winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in physics. In 1933, the Nazis came to power in Germany, and Born, who was Jewish, was suspended from his professorship.

famous theists believers in physics

Max was born to a family of Jewish descent. He had famously said, "The dance of atoms, electrons and nuclei, which in all its fury is subject to God's eternal laws." Born was baptised as a Lutheran in 1914 by the same pastor who had performed his wedding ceremony. His decision to be baptised was made due to his desire to assimilate into German society.


Galileo Galilei

He was an Italian physicist who is most noted for his many astronomical findings such as the rings on Saturn, sunspots and Jupiter's four moons with the help of a telescope he had invented. Galileo was a deeply religious man who was ordered life imprisonment for his groundbreaking discoveries.

famous theists believers in physics

Galileo was an outspoken supporter of the Copernican sun-centered model of the universe. He said, "The intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes, and I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

He added, "Copernicus did not ignore the Bible, but he knew very well that if his doctrine were proved, then it could not contradict the Scriptures when they were rightly understood." Apart from his astronomical observations, Galileo also discovered the law of inertia with experiment, which is why he is often called the "father of the scientific method."


Michael Faraday

He was an English physicist who contributed to the study of electricity and magnetism and ultimately their unification. Faraday discovered the laws of electromagnetic induction and electrolysis and is often called the father of electricity.

famous theists believers in physics

When asked about his speculations on life after death, Faraday replied, "Speculations? I have none. I am resting on certainties. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." He remained a devout Christian until his death.


Georges Lemaitre

He was a Jesuit trained Belgian Catholic priest and professor of physics at the Catholic University of Louvain. Lemaitre was the first to identify that the recession of nearby galaxies can be explained by a theory of an expanding universe. Then he proposed the Big Bang Theory.

famous theists believers in physics

In a 1933 interview for the New York Times, he said, "There is no conflict between science and religion. I was interested in truth from the point of view of salvation just as much as in truth from the point of view of scientific certainty. It appeared to me that there were two paths to truth, and I decided to follow both of them."


Werner Heisenberg

He was a German theoretical physicist and one of the key pioneers of quantum mechanics. Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1932 for the creation of matrix mechanics. He was raised and lived as a Lutheran Christian.

famous theists believers in physics

Most of his quotations about god and religion are misattributed such as this one, "the first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you," these repeated time after time do not really represent his original views and are completely biased.

However Heisenberg did say, "of course.. we all know that our own reality depends on the structure of our consciousness; we can objectify no more than a small part of our world. But even when we try to probe into the subjective realm, we cannot ignore the central order. In the final analysis, the central order with which we commune in the language of religion, must win out." This was his own unique and intellectual way of putting out his beliefs.


Arthur Compton

He was an American physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his 1923 discovery of the Compton effect, an increase in wavelength of X-rays or gamma rays that occurs when they are scattered, which demonstrated the particle nature of electromagnetic radiation.

famous theists believers in physics

For some time, Compton was a deacon at a Baptist church, a member who was generally associated with service of some kind. "Science can have no quarrel", he said, "..with a religion which postulates a God to whom men are as His children." Compton remained religious all his life.


Hideki Yukawa

He was a Japanese theoretical physicist who was the first Japanese citizen to win Nobel Prize in physics for his accurate prediction of the pi meson. As a child Yukawa used to read the Confucian Doctrine of the Mean, and later Lao-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu.

famous theists believers in physics

Yukawa Hideki was a devout Buddhist and believed that a Buddhist philosophical outlook influenced his research in physics. In his view, natural forces could reasonably be viewed as a somewhat random product of chance or pure contingency in mathematical terms, similar to Hindu and Buddhist notions of karma.


Victor Francis Hess

He was an Austrian-American theoretical physicist who won the 1936 Nobel Prize in physics for his discovery of the cosmic rays, highly energetic atomic nuclei which travel through space at a speed approaching that of light.

famous theists believers in physics

Hess was a practicing Roman Catholic and in 1946 wrote on the relationship between science and religion in his famous article "My Faith", in which he explained why he believed in God.

famous theists believers in physics



Arthur Eddington

He was a prominent English astronomer and physicist who is known for his groundbreaking research in astrophysics. Eddington was the first person to investigate the internal structure and evolution of stars. He correctly speculated that the source of starlight was fusion of hydrogen into helium.

famous theists believers in physics

He was born to Quaker parents and the members of the various Quaker movements are all generally united by their belief in the ability of each human being to experientially access the light within, or that of God in every one. In 1930, Arthur wrote a 64 page book titled, "Why I Believe in God: Science and Religion, as a Scientist Sees It."


James Clerk Maxwell

To him we owe the most significant discovery of our age, the theory of electromagnetism. Maxwell was a Scottish theoretical physicist who built upon Faraday's results to unify the once separate fields of electricity, magnetism and optics.

famous theists believers in physics

Maxwell said, "I have committed myself to God as the instrument of His will, not doubtfully, but in the certain hope that that Will will be plain enough at the proper time." Maxwell's intellectual understanding of his Christian faith and of science grew rapidly during his Cambridge years. His knowledge of the Bible was remarkable as his Cambridge colleagues remember.


Summing up

Agnostics

Atheists

Theists

John Bardeen

Richard Feynman

Robert Millikan

Jagadish Chandra Bose

Niels Bohr

Johannes Kepler

Marie Curie

S. Chandrasekhar

Isaac Newton

Edwin Hubble

Louis de Broglie

Abdus Salam

Freeman Dyson

Pierre Simon Laplace

Philip Lenard

Albert Einstein

Stephen Hawking

Max Born

C.V. Raman

Francis Crick

Galileo Galilei

Rosalind Franklin

Erwin Schrodinger

Michael Faraday

Enrico Fermi

Meghnad Saha

Georges Lemaitre

Eugene Wigner

Steven Weinberg

Werner Heisenberg

Carl Sagan

Hans Bethe

Arthur Compton

Lisa Randall

Kip Thorne

Hideki Yukawa

Paul Dirac

James Franck

Victor Francis Hess

Murray Gell Mann

John Bell

Arthur Eddington

Henri Poincare

Herbert Kroemer

James Clerk Maxwell

 

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