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I have been announced as a student of science. But I also like to think of myself as one who loves the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For me there has been no serious difficulty in reconciling the principles of true science with the principles of true religion, for both are concerned with the eternal verities of the Universe. . . .

So I would like to address my remarks to those who find themselves troubled by an inner conflict between the traditional teachings of the Christian faith on the one hand, and on the other the challenge of modern education to explore, to dissect and to test in the cold light of fact and demonstrated proof. I believe that many of our young people have impoverished their lives by a thoughtless denial of all aspects of the faith of their fathers in their desire to be what they call scientific and objective.

Now I am also of the opinion that some theologians have unwittingly assisted in this rebellion by taking positions so dogmatic as to stifle the honest and thoughtful inquiries of youth when they needed help and sought it. . . .

Apparent contradictions between religion and science often have been the basis of bitter controversy. Such differences are to be expected as long as human understanding remains provisional and fragmentary. Only as one’s understanding approaches the Divine will all seeming contradictions disappear. Such complete understanding is to be approached as a part of the eternal progress which will continue in the life to come. In the meantime, we can only continue our quest for the balanced view that comes from weighing all evidence carefully in the search for enduring values. The road is a long one, but the outcome is assured if we are willing to travel it. . . .

Some have asked me: “Is there any conflict between science and religion?” There is no conflict in the mind of God, but often there is conflict in the minds of men. . . .

A young man said: “In high school we are taught such things as pre-Adamic men, and that kind of thing, but we hear another thing in Church. What should I do about it?”

I think I gave the right answer. I said, “In this Church, you only have to believe the truth. Find out what the truth is!”

I am happy to represent a people who throughout their history have encouraged learning and scholarship in all fields of honorable endeavor, a people who have among their scriptural teachings such lofty concepts as these: “The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words light and truth.” “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.” “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.” . . .

Contemplating this awe-inspiring order extending from the almost infinitely small to the infinitely large, one is overwhelmed with its grandeur and with the limitless wisdom which conceived, created and governs it all. Our understanding, great as it sometimes seems, can be nothing but the wide-eyed wonder of the child when measured against Omniscience. . . .

For one who feels compelled, as I do, to accept the existence of the Master Architect, it is important to examine His handiwork for the light it throws on Him and on His program for His children. . . .

Now, curiously enough, there are good people who would have you believe that man, who conceives all these wonderful things, and masters them in part, is no more than the dust of the earth to which his body returns. To me, this is unbelievable. . .

If one picked up a watch far from human habitation and found it running, one would ask not only who made it, but also who wound it up. So it is with this universe. It was not wound up by chance, but by some as yet unfathomed operation of eternal law. . . .

In this universe governed and created according to eternal laws, is it likely that the most intelligent creatures in it are here by chance? The great measure of the Restored Gospel is that the Creator not only made the world but that He made it for His children and that He is still actively interested in a program which was not completed two thousand years ago, as is sometimes supposed. . . .

May the Lord bless us to appreciate the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the wonderful message that he brought to us with the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. May we live and understand it in a big way and not worry about the small things that we do not understand very well, because they will become clearer as we go on. . . . The things we believe are only a part of the things that are yet to be revealed, and if we do our part, our position is sure.

(Excerpted from Henry Eyring, The Faith of a Scientist [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967], 1-3, 14-16, 33, 36-37, 43-44 [though not always in that order].)

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Henry Eyring was an American theoretical chemist known primarily for his contributions to the understanding of chemical reaction rates and intermediates.

The author of more than six hundred scientific articles, ten scientific books, and several books on the relationship between science and religion, Dr. Eyring was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1945, and became president of the American Chemical Society in 1963 and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1965. In 1966, he received the National Medal of Science for his development of the absolute rate or transition state theory of chemical reactions, one of the most important achievements in twentieth-century chemistry. Since several other chemists later received the Nobel Prize for work based on it, his own failure to receive the Nobel Prize puzzled some observers. It has been suggested that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences did not understand or appreciate his theory in time to award him the Nobel Prize, though some have also suspected that his religious beliefs may have been the obstacle. In any event, the Academy awarded him the Berzelius Medal in 1977, perhaps as partial compensation. He also won the Priestley Medal, the highest award given by the American Chemical Society, in 1975 and the Wolf Foundation Prize in Chemistry in 1980.

Henry Eyring was born in 1901, in the Mormon settlement of Colonia Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. He earned degrees in mining engineering, metallurgy, and chemistry from the University of Arizona, and received his doctorate in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1927. He did postdoctoral teaching and research at the University of Wisconsin 1927-1929, and was a fellow at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin 1929-1930, where he worked mainly with the famous chemist and philosopher of science Michael Polanyi. Then, after another year in Berkeley, he began fifteen years of teaching and research at Princeton University, in New Jersey, in 1931. In 1946, he accepted appointment as dean of the graduate school at the University of Utah.

He and his wife, Mildred Bennion, had three sons. The eldest, Edward, became a professor of chemistry at the University of Utah. Their second son, Henry, taught at Stanford University before becoming president of Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho), and has served as a General Authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1985, becoming a member of its Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1995 and a counselor in its governing three-member First Presidency in 2007. Their youngest son, Harden, served as an administrator in the higher education system of the State of Utah.

Dr. Henry Eyring died on 26 December 1981 in Salt Lake City, just two months after a large meeting was held in Berlin to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of his famous paper with Michael Polanyi, “Über einfache Gasreaktionen.”

A great deal has been written about Professor Eyring, including, but definitely not limited to: S. H. Heath, “Henry Eyring: Mormon Scientist,” master’s thesis, University of Utah, 1980; S. H. Heath, “The Making of a Physical Chemist: The Education and Early Researches of Henry Eyring,” Journal of Chemistry Education 62 (1985): 93-98; and Henry J. Eyring, Mormon Scientist: The Life and Faith of Henry Eyring (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2007). A complete list of his publications, doctoral students, and collaborators can be found in the Journal of Physical Chemistry 87 (15): 2641-2656, an issue of the journal dedicated to him.

Posted April 2011