George F. R. Ellis

George Francis Rayner Ellis, FRS, Hon. FRSSAf (born 11 August 1939), is the emeritus distinguished professor of complex systems in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He co-authored The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with University of Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking, published in 1973, and is considered one of the world's leading theorists in cosmology.[1] He is an active Quaker and in 2004 he won the Templeton Prize.[2] From 1989 to 1992 he served as president of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation. He is a past president of the International Society for Science and Religion. He is an A-rated researcher with the NRF.

Ellis was a vocal opponent of apartheid during the National Party reign in the 1970s and 1980s, and it is during this period that Ellis's research has focused on the more philosophical aspects of cosmology, for which he won the Templeton Prize. He was also awarded the Order of the Star of South Africa by Nelson Mandela, in 1999. On 18 May 2007, he was elected a fellow of the British Royal Society.

In 2005 Ellis appeared as a guest speaker at the Nobel Conference in St. Peter, Minnesota.

George F R Ellis
George Ellis 0040
George Francis Rayner Ellis
Born11 August 1939 (age 79)
ResidenceSouth Africa
NationalitySouth African
Alma materUniversity of Cape Town
University of Cambridge
University of Cape Town
Known forTheoretical physical cosmology
AwardsTempleton Prize 2004
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Cambridge
Doctoral advisorDennis W. Sciama


Born in 1939 to George Rayner Ellis, a newspaper editor, and Gwendoline Hilda MacRobert Ellis in Johannesburg, George Francis Rayner Ellis attended the University of Cape Town, where he graduated with honours in 1960 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physics with distinction. He represented the university in fencing, rowing and flying.

While a student at Cambridge University, where he received a PhD in applied maths and theoretical physics in 1964, he was on college rowing teams.

At Cambridge, Ellis served as a research fellow from 1965 to 1967, was assistant lecturer in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics until 1970, and was then appointed university lecturer, serving until 1974.

Ellis became a visiting professor at the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago in 1970, a lecturer at the Cargese Summer School in Corsica in 1971 and the Erice Summer School in Sicily in 1972, and a visiting H3 professor at the University of Hamburg, also in 1972.

The following year, Ellis co-wrote The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with Stephen Hawking, debuting at a strategic moment in the development of General Relativity Theory.

In the following year, Ellis returned to South Africa to accept an appointment as professor of applied mathematics at the University of Cape Town, a position he held until his retirement in 2005.


George Ellis has worked for many decades on anisotropic cosmologies (Bianchi models) and inhomogeneous universes, and on the philosophy of cosmology.[3] He is currently writing on the emergence of complexity, and the way this is enabled by top-down causation in the hierarchy of complexity.[4]

In terms of philosophy of science, Ellis is a Platonist.[5]



  • (with Stephen Hawking): Hawking, S.W.; Ellis, G.F.R. (1973). The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-20016-5.[6]
  • (with David Dewar): Low Income Housing Policy in South Africa, Urban Problems Research Unit, UCT, 1979.
  • (with Ruth Williams): Flat and Curved Space Times, Oxford University Press, 1988, revised 2000.
  • Before the Beginning: Cosmology Explained, Bowerdean/Marion Boyars, 1993.
  • (with A. Lanza and J. Miller): The Renaissance of General Relativity and Cosmology. University Press, Cambridge 1993; paperback, 2005.
  • Science Research Policy in South Africa, Royal Society of South Africa, 1994.
  • (with Nancey Murphy): On The Moral Nature of the universe: Cosmology, Theology, and Ethics. Fortress Press, 1996.
  • (with John Wainwright, Eds.): Wainwright, J.; Ellis, G.F.R., eds. (1997). Dynamical Systems in Cosmology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-55457-2.
  • (with Peter Coles): Is The Universe Open or Closed? The Density of Matter in the Universe. Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • (Ed.): The Far Future Universe, Templeton Foundation Press, 2002.
  • Science in Faith and Hope: an interaction, Quaker Books, 2004.
  • (with Roy Maartens and Malcolm A. H. MacCallum): Relativistic Cosmology, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
  • "How Can Physics Underlie the Mind? Top-Down Causation in the Human Context", Springer, 2016


Ellis has over 500 published articles (See "[1]" here for top cited papers) including 17 in Nature. Notable papers include:

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Gibbs, W.W. (1995) Profile: George F. R. Ellis – Thinking Globally Acting Universally, Scientific American 273(4), 50-55.
  2. ^ Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities
  3. ^ Ellis, George (2006). Handbook in Philosophy of Physics. Elsevier. pp. 1183–1285. ISBN 978-0-444-53002-8.
  4. ^ Ellis, George (6 February 2012). "Top down causation and emergence: some comments on mechanisms". Royal Society Interface Focus. 2 (2): 126–140. doi:10.1098/rsfs.2011.0062. PMC 3262299. PMID 23386967.
  5. ^ Ellis, George (2004). Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Complexity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 607–636. ISBN 978-0-521-83113-0.
  6. ^ Markus, Lawrence (1976). "Review of The large scale structure of space-time by S. W. Hawking and G. F. R. Ellis". Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 82 (6): 805–817. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1976-14169-9.

External links

Andrew King (astrophysicist)

Andrew Robert King, (born 1947) is a British astrophysicist and Professor of Astrophysics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester. His previous institutions include University College London and the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Hamburg and a visiting position at the Observatoire de Paris. He currently holds visiting positions at the Astronomical Institute of the University of Amsterdam, and he is a Visiting Professor at Leiden University. He has served as Editor and now is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the international astronomy journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.His research started with his PhD in relativistic cosmology, working with his supervisor George F. R. Ellis at the University of Cambridge. He also worked with Stephen Hawking. He has worked in the fields of General Relativity, binary star evolution, accretion discs and active galactic nuclei.In 2014 he received the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society "for investigations of outstanding merit in theoretical astrophysics".

Big Bang

The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model for the observable universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution. The model describes how the universe expanded from a very high-density and high-temperature state, and offers a comprehensive explanation for a broad range of phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background (CMB), large scale structure and Hubble's law (the farther away galaxies are, the faster they are moving away from Earth). If the observed conditions are extrapolated backwards in time using the known laws of physics, the prediction is that just before a period of very high density there was a singularity which is typically associated with the Big Bang. Physicists are undecided whether this means the universe began from a singularity, or that current knowledge is insufficient to describe the universe at that time. Detailed measurements of the expansion rate of the universe place the Big Bang at around 13.8 billion years ago, which is thus considered the age of the universe. After its initial expansion, the universe cooled sufficiently to allow the formation of subatomic particles, and later simple atoms. Giant clouds of these primordial elements (mostly hydrogen, with some helium and lithium) later coalesced through gravity, eventually forming early stars and galaxies, the descendants of which are visible today. Astronomers also observe the gravitational effects of dark matter surrounding galaxies. Though most of the mass in the universe seems to be in the form of dark matter, Big Bang theory and various observations seem to indicate that it is not made out of conventional baryonic matter (protons, neutrons, and electrons) but it is unclear exactly what it is made out of.

Since Georges Lemaître first noted in 1927 that an expanding universe could be traced back in time to an originating single point, scientists have built on his idea of cosmic expansion. The scientific community was once divided between supporters of two different theories, the Big Bang and the Steady State theory, but a wide range of empirical evidence has strongly favored the Big Bang which is now universally accepted. In 1929, from analysis of galactic redshifts, Edwin Hubble concluded that galaxies are drifting apart; this is important observational evidence consistent with the hypothesis of an expanding universe. In 1964, the cosmic microwave background radiation was discovered, which was crucial evidence in favor of the Big Bang model, since that theory predicted the existence of background radiation throughout the universe before it was discovered. More recently, measurements of the redshifts of supernovae indicate that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, an observation attributed to dark energy's existence. The known physical laws of nature can be used to calculate the characteristics of the universe in detail back in time to an initial state of extreme density and temperature.

Cosmological constant problem

In cosmology, the cosmological constant problem or vacuum catastrophe is the disagreement between the observed values of vacuum energy density (the small value of the cosmological constant) and theoretical large value of zero-point energy suggested by quantum field theory.

Depending on the Planck energy cutoff and other factors, the discrepancy is as high as 120 orders of magnitude, a state of affairs described by physicists as "the largest discrepancy between theory and experiment in all of science" and "the worst theoretical prediction in the history of physics."

Fine-tuned Universe

The fine-tuned Universe is the proposition that the conditions that allow life in the Universe can occur only when certain universal dimensionless physical constants lie within a very narrow range of values, so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is understood.Various possible explanations of ostensible fine-tuning are discussed among philosophers, scientists, theologians, and proponents and detractors of creationism. The fine-tuned Universe observation is closely related to, but not exactly synonymous with the anthropic principle, which is often used as an explanation of apparent fine-tuning.

George Ellis

George Ellis may refer to:

George F. R. Ellis (born 1939), South African cosmologist and mathematician

George Ellis (poet) (1753–1815), English poet

George F. Ellis (1903–1972), American cattleman and author

George Henry Ellis (1875–1898), U.S. Navy sailor during the Spanish–American War

George R. Ellis (born 1937), author, art historian and director of the Honolulu Museum of Art

George Edward Ellis (1814–1894), Unitarian clergyman and historian

George Viner Ellis (1812–1900), British anatomist

George Washington Ellis (1875–1919), African American attorney, writer, and speaker

Kruskal–Szekeres coordinates

In general relativity Kruskal–Szekeres coordinates, named after Martin Kruskal and George Szekeres, are a coordinate system for the Schwarzschild geometry for a black hole. These coordinates have the advantage that they cover the entire spacetime manifold of the maximally extended Schwarzschild solution and are well-behaved everywhere outside the physical singularity.

Leo Joseph Suenens

Leo Jozef Suenens ( SOO-nens) (16 July 1904 – 6 May 1996) was a Belgian prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussel from 1961 to 1979, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1962.

Suenens was a leading voice at the Second Vatican Council and advocated aggiornamento in the Church.


Light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word usually refers to visible light, which is the visible spectrum that is visible to the human eye and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometres (nm), or 4.00 × 10−7 to 7.00 × 10−7 m, between the infrared (with longer wavelengths) and the ultraviolet (with shorter wavelengths). This wavelength means a frequency range of roughly 430–750 terahertz (THz).

The main source of light on Earth is the Sun. Sunlight provides the energy that green plants use to create sugars mostly in the form of starches, which release energy into the living things that digest them. This process of photosynthesis provides virtually all the energy used by living things. Historically, another important source of light for humans has been fire, from ancient campfires to modern kerosene lamps. With the development of electric lights and power systems, electric lighting has effectively replaced firelight. Some species of animals generate their own light, a process called bioluminescence. For example, fireflies use light to locate mates, and vampire squids use it to hide themselves from prey.

The primary properties of visible light are intensity, propagation direction, frequency or wavelength spectrum, and polarization, while its speed in a vacuum, 299,792,458 metres per second, is one of the fundamental constants of nature. Visible light, as with all types of electromagnetic radiation (EMR), is experimentally found to always move at this speed in a vacuum.In physics, the term light sometimes refers to electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength, whether visible or not. In this sense, gamma rays, X-rays, microwaves and radio waves are also light. Like all types of EM radiation, visible light propagates as waves. However, the energy imparted by the waves is absorbed at single locations the way particles are absorbed. The absorbed energy of the EM waves is called a photon, and represents the quanta of light. When a wave of light is transformed and absorbed as a photon, the energy of the wave instantly collapses to a single location, and this location is where the photon "arrives." This is what is called the wave function collapse. This dual wave-like and particle-like nature of light is known as the wave–particle duality. The study of light, known as optics, is an important research area in modern physics.

Linacre College, Oxford

Linacre College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in the UK whose members comprise approximately 50 fellows and 500 postgraduate students. The College is named after Thomas Linacre (1460–1524), founder of the Royal College of Physicians as well as a distinguished renaissance humanist—multidisciplinary interests that the College aims to reflect. It is located on St Cross Road at its junction with South Parks Road, next to the University Parks and opposite the Tinbergen Building.

Linacre is a diverse college in terms of both the international composition of its members (the majority of whom are from outside the UK and represent 133 different countries), as well as the disciplines studied. Linacre was the first graduate college in the UK for both sexes and all subjects. This egalitarian spirit is reflected by a lack of formal separation between fellows and students.

The College also has a strong environmental and ethical ethos. It was the first carbon neutral college as well as the first college in Oxford to achieve Fairtrade status.

List of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 2007

Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 2007.

List of contributors to general relativity

This is a partial list of persons who have made major contributions to the development of standard mainstream general relativity. One simple rule of thumb for who belongs here is whether their contribution is recognized in the canon of standard general relativity textbooks. Some related lists are mentioned at the bottom of the page.

List of cosmologists

This is a list of people who have made noteworthy contributions to cosmology (,the study of the history and large-scale structure of the universe) and their cosmological achievements

Nancey Murphy

Nancey Murphy is an American philosopher and theologian who is Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA. She received the B.A. from Creighton University (philosophy and psychology) in 1973, the Ph.D. from University of California, Berkeley (philosophy of science) in 1980, and the Th.D. from the Graduate Theological Union (theology) in 1987.

Philosophical interpretation of classical physics

Classical Newtonian physics has, formally, been replaced by quantum mechanics on the small scale and relativity on the large scale. Because most humans continue to think in terms of the kind of events we perceive in the human scale of daily life, it became necessary to provide a new philosophical interpretation of classical physics. Classical mechanics worked extremely well within its domain of observation but made inaccurate predictions at very small scale - atomic scale systems - and when objects moved very fast or were very massive. Viewed through the lens of quantum mechanics or relativity, we can now see that classical physics, imported from the world of our everyday experience, includes notions for which there is no actual evidence. For example, one commonly held idea is that there exists one absolute time shared by all observers. Another is the idea that electrons are discrete entities like miniature planets that circle the nucleus in definite orbits[1].

The correspondence principle says that classical accounts are approximations to quantum mechanics that are for all practical purposes equivalent to quantum mechanics when dealing with macro-scale events.

Various problems occur if classical mechanics is used to describe quantum systems, such as the ultraviolet catastrophe in black body radiation, the Gibbs paradox, and the lack of a zero point for entropy.

Since classical physics corresponds more closely to ordinary language than modern physics does, this subject is also a part of the philosophical interpretation of ordinary language, which has other aspects, as well.

Pierre-Simon Laplace

Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace (; French: [pjɛʁ simɔ̃ laplas]; 23 March 1749 – 5 March 1827) was a French scholar whose work was important to the development of engineering, mathematics, statistics, physics and astronomy. He summarized and extended the work of his predecessors in his five-volume Mécanique Céleste (Celestial Mechanics) (1799–1825). This work translated the geometric study of classical mechanics to one based on calculus, opening up a broader range of problems. In statistics, the Bayesian interpretation of probability was developed mainly by Laplace.Laplace formulated Laplace's equation, and pioneered the Laplace transform which appears in many branches of mathematical physics, a field that he took a leading role in forming. The Laplacian differential operator, widely used in mathematics, is also named after him. He restated and developed the nebular hypothesis of the origin of the Solar System and was one of the first scientists to postulate the existence of black holes and the notion of gravitational collapse.

Laplace is remembered as one of the greatest scientists of all time. Sometimes referred to as the French Newton or Newton of France, he has been described as possessing a phenomenal natural mathematical faculty superior to that of any of his contemporaries.

He was Napoleon's examiner when Napoleon attended the Ecole Militaire in Paris in 1784.

Laplace became a count of the Empire in 1806 and was named a marquis in 1817, after the Bourbon Restoration.

Religious interpretations of the Big Bang theory

Since the emergence of the Big Bang theory as the dominant physical cosmological paradigm, there have been a variety of reactions by religious groups regarding its implications for religious cosmologies. Some accept the scientific evidence at face value, some seek to harmonize the Big Bang with their religious tenets, and some reject or ignore the evidence for the Big Bang theory.

Robert Sungenis

Robert A. Sungenis (born ca. 1955) is an American Traditionalist Catholic known for his Catholic apologetics and his advocacy of a pseudoscientific belief that the Earth is the center of the universe. He has made statements about Jews and Judaism which have been criticized as being antisemitic, which he denies.

Templeton Prize

The Templeton Prize is an annual award granted to a living person who, in the estimation of the judges, "has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works". It was established, funded and administered by John Templeton starting in 1972, and then after 1987 by the John Templeton Foundation.The prize was originally awarded to people working in the field of religion (Mother Teresa was the first winner), but in the 1980s the scope broadened to include people working at the intersection of science and religion. Until 2001, the name of the prize was "Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion", and from 2002 to 2008 it was called the "Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities". Hindus, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims have been on the panel of judges and have been recipients of the prize.The monetary value of the prize is adjusted so that it exceeds that of the Nobel Prizes; Templeton felt, according to The Economist, that "spirituality was ignored" in the Nobel Prizes. It has typically been presented by Prince Philip in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.The prize has been criticized: British biologist Richard Dawkins said in his book The God Delusion that the prize was given "usually to a scientist who is prepared to say something nice about religion". Martinus J. G. Veltman, the 1999 Nobel laureate in physics, suggested the prize "bridg[ed] the gap between sense and nonsense".

White South Africans

White South Africans are South Africans descended from any of the white racial groups of Europe who regard themselves, or are not regarded as, as being part of another racial group (for example, as Coloureds). In linguistic, cultural and historical terms, they are generally divided into the Afrikaans-speaking descendants of the Dutch East India Company's original settlers, known as Afrikaners, and the Anglophone descendants of predominantly British colonists. In 2016, 57.9% were native Afrikaans speakers, 40.2% were native English speakers, and 1.9% spoke another language as their mother tongue, such as Portuguese or German. White South Africans are by far the largest European-descended population group in Africa.

White South Africans differ significantly from other White African groups, because they have a sense of separate cultural identity, as in the case of the Afrikaners, who established a distinct language, culture and faith. Contemporary attempts to declare whites as ethnically African or describe themselves as 'African' as opposed to citizens of South Africa have been challenged as mere claims to entitlement.

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