A Brazilian biophysicist who helped resolve contentious debates--both past and present--between science and religion died 16 February. Carlos Chagas Filho was a key negotiator in recent disputes about the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin and the rehabilitation of Galileo in the Catholic Church. He was 89.
Between 1972 and 1988, Chagas Filho served as president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City, an international body of scientists that reports to the Pope. From this post, he encouraged the Vatican to absolve Galileo of what the church viewed as sins associated with his 1632 claim that the sun is the center of the universe. One year after the Italian astronomer published his "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems," he was forced to deny his heliocentric claims to escape a death sentence from the Inquisition. In 1992, the church admitted that both sides erred in their search for truth.
Chagas Filho also oversaw the scientific study of the Shroud of Turin, a cloth that some claim once covered the body of Christ. Carbon dating showed that the shroud was about 1300 years younger than its supposed 2000 years.