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.[3] 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.

George F R Ellis
George Francis Rayner Ellis

(1939-08-11) 11 August 1939 (age 84)
NationalitySouth African
Alma mater
Known forTheoretical physical cosmology
AwardsTempleton Prize 2004
Prix Georges Lemaître 2019[1]
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorDennis W. Sciama[2]

Ellis, an active Quaker,[4][5][6] was a vocal opponent of apartheid during the National Party reign in the 1970s and 1980s,[7] and it is during this period that Ellis's research focused on the more philosophical aspects of cosmology, for which he won the Templeton Prize in 2004.[8] He was also awarded the Order of the Star of South Africa by Nelson Mandela, in 1999[citation needed] . On 18 May 2007, he was elected a fellow of the British Royal Society[citation needed] .



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[citation needed] . He represented the university in fencing, rowing and flying[citation needed] .

While a student at St John's College, Cambridge, where he received a PhD in applied maths and theoretical physics in 1964, he was on college rowing teams[citation needed] .

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[citation needed] .

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.

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



George Ellis has worked for many decades on anisotropic cosmologies (Bianchi models) and inhomogeneous universes, and on the philosophy of cosmology.[9] He is currently writing on the emergence of complexity, and the way this is enabled by top-down causation in the hierarchy of complexity.[10] Recently Ellis has also collaborated with Teppo Felin, Denis Noble, and Jan Koenderink on a set of articles published in the journal Genome Biology.[11][12] In terms of philosophy of science, Ellis is a Platonist.[13]




  • ——; Hawking, S.W. (1973). The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time. Cambridge: University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-20016-5.[14]
  • ——; Dewar, David (1979). Low Income Housing Policy in South Africa. Urban Problems Research Unit, UCT.
  • ——; Williams, Ruth (1988). Flat and Curved Space Times (2000 revised ed.). Oxford University Press.
  • —— (1993). Before the Beginning: Cosmology Explained. Bowerdean/Marion Boyars.
  • ——; Lanza, A.; Miller, J. (1993). The Renaissance of General Relativity and Cosmology (2005 paperback ed.). Cambridge: University Press.
  • —— (1994). Science Research Policy in South Africa. Royal Society of South Africa.
  • ——; Murphy, Nancey (1996). On The Moral Nature of the universe: Cosmology, Theology, and Ethics. Fortress Press.
  • ——; Wainwright, John, eds. (1997). Dynamical Systems in Cosmology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-55457-2.
  • ——; Coles, Peter (1997). Is The Universe Open or Closed? The Density of Matter in the Universe. Cambridge Lecture Notes in Physics, vol. 7. Cambridge: University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-56689-6.
  • ——, ed. (2002). The Far Future Universe: Eschatology from a Cosmic Perspective. Templeton Foundation Press. ISBN 978-1-890151-90-4.
  • —— (2004). Science in Faith and Hope: an interaction. Quaker Books.
  • —— (2004a). Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Complexity. Cambridge: University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-83113-0.
  • —— (2006). Handbook in Philosophy of Physics. Elsevier. ISBN 978-0-444-53002-8.
  • ——; Maartens, Roy; MacCallum, Malcolm A. H. (2012). Relativistic Cosmology. Cambridge: University Press.
  • —— (2016). How Can Physics Underlie the Mind? Top-Down Causation in the Human Context. Springer.



Ellis has over 500 published articles; including 17 in Nature. Notable papers include:



In 2019 Rhodes University in Grahamstown announced it would award Ellis an honorary doctorate in laws (LLD, hc)[15]

See also


Notes and references

  1. ^ "George Ellis awarded Georges Lemaître Prize". UCLouvain. 29 May 2019.
  2. ^ George F. R. Ellis at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  3. ^ Gibbs, W. W. (1995). "Profile: George F. R. Ellis – Thinking Globally Acting Universally". Scientific American. 273 (4): 50–55. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1095-50.
  4. ^ Ellis, George F. R. (22 July 2014). "Physicist George Ellis Knocks Physicists for Knocking Philosophy, Falsification, Free Will". Cross-Check (Interview). Interviewed by John Horgan. Scientific American. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  5. ^ "The Theology of the Anthropic Principle". Counterbalance Foundation. Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  6. ^ Ellis, George F. R. (1993). "The Theology of the Anthropic Principle". In Russell, Robert John; Murphy, Nancey; Isham, Christopher J. (eds.). Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action. Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory. pp. 367–405. ISBN 978-0-268-03976-9.
  7. ^ Merali, Zeeya. "Is the Future Already Written?". Discover. Retrieved 19 November 2023.
  8. ^ "Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities". Archived from the original on 24 February 2008. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
  9. ^ Ellis 2006, pp. 1183–1285.
  10. ^ Ellis, Maartens & MacCallum 2012, pp. 126–140.
  11. ^ Felin, Teppo; Koenderink, Jan; Krueger, Joachim I.; Noble, Denis; Ellis, George F.R. (10 February 2021). "The data-hypothesis relationship". Genome Biology. 22 (1): 57. doi:10.1186/s13059-021-02276-4. ISSN 1474-760X. PMC 7874637. PMID 33568195.
  12. ^ Felin, Teppo; Koenderink, Jan; Krueger, Joachim I.; Noble, Denis; Ellis, George F. R. (10 February 2021). "Data bias". Genome Biology. 22 (1): 59. doi:10.1186/s13059-021-02278-2. ISSN 1474-760X. PMC 7874446. PMID 33568166.
  13. ^ Ellis 2004a, pp. 607–636.
  14. ^ Markus, Lawrence (1976). "Book Review: The large scale structure of space-time". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 82 (6): 805–818. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1976-14169-9. ISSN 0002-9904.
  15. ^ "Rhodes University honours five of Africa's best". 7 March 2019. Retrieved 7 March 2019.