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Dr. Henry Fritz Schaefer, Director, Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry, University of Georgia


September 8, 2010 at 9:30 PM EDT


411 Willard Straight Hall


Toward the end of the 19th century, Thomas Huxley and Andrew Dickson White (the first president of Cornell University) advanced the idea that science and Christianity had been in a state of warfare for the previous 300 years. An important question is whether the history of science supports this conflict paradigm. Recent advocates of the combat motif have been the late Carl Sagan (Cornell astrophysicist) and Richard Dawkins. However, a number of distinguished scientists, including Charles Townes and Francis Collins, have taken the opposite view. Can any general conclusions be drawn concerning this continuing discussion?



Henry F. Schaefer III is the Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia.  He is one of the most cited chemists in the world.

Schaefer was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He attended public schools in Syracuse (New York), Menlo Park (California), and Grand Rapids (Michigan), graduating from East Grand Rapids High School in 1962. He received his B.S. degree in chemical physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1966) and Ph.D. degree in chemical physics from Stanford University (1969). For 18 years (1969-1987) he served as a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. During the 1979-1980 academic year he was also Wilfred T. Doherty Professor of Chemistry and inaugural Director of the Institute for Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Texas, Austin. Since 1987 Dr. Schaefer has been Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. In 2004 he became Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at the University of California at Berkeley. His other academic appointments include Professeur d’Echange at the University of Paris (1977), Gastprofessur at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochshule (ETH), Zürich, and David P. Craig Visiting Professor at the Australian National University. He is the author of more than 1250 scientific publications, the majority appearing in the Journal of Chemical Physics or the Journal of the American Chemical Society. A total of 300 scientists from 35 countries gathered in Gyeongju, Korea for a six-day conference in February, 2004 with the title Theory and Applications of Computational Chemistry: A Celebration of 1000 Papers of Professor Henry F. Schaefer III. In May 2010, the University of California at Berkeley hosted a large international conference in Professor Schaefer’s honor, the title of the conference beingMolecular Quantum Mechanics: From Methylene to DNA and Beyond.

Critical to Professor Schaefer’s scientific success has been a brilliant array of students and coworkers; including 57 undergraduate researchers who have published papers with him, 92 successful Ph.D. students, 47 postdoctoral researchers, and 65 visiting professors who have spent substantial time in the Schaefer group. A number of his students have gone on to positions of distinction in academia, industry, and government laboratories.

Dr. Schaefer has been invited to present plenary lectures at more than 225 national or international scientific conferences. He has delivered endowed lectures at more than 50 major universities. He is the recipient of twenty honorary degrees, and was the longest serving Editor-in-Chief of the London-based journal Molecular Physics (1995-2005). He was also the longest serving President of the World Association of Theoretical and Computational Chemists, from 1996 to 2005. His service to the chemical community includes the chairmanship of the American Chemical Society’s Subdivision of Theoretical Chemistry (1982) and Division of Physical Chemistry (1992). At the 228th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (Philadelphia, August, 2004) the Division of Computers in Chemistry and the Division of Physical Chemistry co-sponsored a four-day Symposium in Honor of Henry F. Schaefer’s 60th Birthday. The book Theory and Applications of Computational Chemistry: The First Forty Years(Elsevier) was published in 2005 in honor of Professor Schaefer.

Professor Schaefer’s major awards include the American Chemical Society Award in Pure Chemistry (1979); the American Chemical Society Leo Hendrik Baekeland Award (1983); the Schrödinger Medal (1990); the Centenary Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (London, 1992); the American Chemical Society Award in Theoretical Chemistry (2003). In 2003 he also received the annual American Chemical Society Ira Remsen Award “for work that resulted in more than one hundred distinct, critical theoretical predictions that were subsequently confirmed by experiment and for work that provided a watershed in the field of quantum chemistry, not by reproducing experiment, but using state-of-the-art theory to make new chemical discoveries and, when necessary, to challenge experiment.” The Journal of Physical Chemistry published a special issue in honor of Dr. Schaefer on April 15, 2004. In 2009, the journal Molecular Physics published five consecutive issues in honor of Professor Schaefer. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. He was the recipient of the prestigious Joseph O. Hirschfelder Prize of the University of Wisconsin for the academic year 2005-2006. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (London) in 2005. He was among the inaugural class of Fellows of the American Chemical Society, chosen in 2009.

During the comprehensive period 1981 – 1997 Professor Schaefer was the sixth most highly cited chemist in the world. The Science Citation Index reports that by December 31, 2009 his research had been cited more than 45,000 times. Professor Schaefer’s Wikipedia H-index is 99. His research involves the use of state-of-the-art computational hardware and theoretical methods to solve important problems in molecular quantum mechanics. According to the December 23, 1991 cover story of U. S. News and World Report, “Schaefer is a five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize”.

Professor Schaefer is also well known as a student of the relationship between science and religion. One or more of the lectures in his popular lecture series on this important topic have been presented at most major universities in North America, including Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, M.I.T., Yale, Princeton, and the Universities of Alberta and Toronto. The Veritas Forum has called on Professor Schaefer to give major lectures 18 times. Dr. Schaefer has also presented science/religion lectures in many universities abroad. His continuously evolving lecture “The Big Bang, Stephen Hawking, and God” appears in many locations and in several languages on the worldwide web. This lecture has been one of the most popular articles about science on the web in recent years, as discussed in Michael White and John Gribbin’s best selling biography of Professor Hawking (pages 314-315 of the 2002 edition). A brief spiritual biography (through 1991, written by Dr. David Fisher) of Professor Schaefer may be found inMore Than Conquerors, edited by John Woodbridge (Moody Press, Chicago, 1992, pp. 323 – 326). Dr. Schaefer received the Erick Bogseth Nilson Award, given to an outstanding university professor in North America, by the organization Christian Leadership. In May 2005 Dr. Schaefer was elected a Corresponding Member of the Catholic Academy of Sciences in the USA. An article featuring Professor Schaefer entitled “A Chemist and God,” appeared in the October 18, 2008 issue of WORLD magazine. At the University of Georgia Professor Schaefer teaches an oversubscribed freshman seminar “Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence?” Dr. Schaefer’s book with the same title had its sixth printing (with additions) in May 2010. The book reached position #84 on the best-selling list of in March 2004.

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