Thursday, May 22, 2014

Priests who were (and are) scientists

21 MAY 2014 (ORCNS) - Mention a priest, and most people will likely think of a parish priest, dispensing the sacraments and tending to the needs of his flock. This isn't surprising, since most priests fall in this category. Some priests, though, have duties that fall outside this trend. For example, some are administrators, some are diplomats, and some are scientists. Some have even made significant contributions to science. Unfortunately far too many people consider the Church to be anti-science, and people so often brush aside the clerical state of many of the great scientists they otherwise laud and praise. This creates a distorted view of the relationship between the Church and the sciences. Let's take a look at just a few of the clerics who have been scientists from the past through today and help to dispel the myth that the Church is against scientific knowledge, enquiry, and advancement.

Note: Living clerics are presented without dates. 

Blessed Nicholas Steno: (1638-1686) A convert from Lutheranism, he was a Dutch Catholic bishop. He made significant contributions in the fields of anatomy, geology, and paleontology. He is often considered the father of the field of geology.

Nicholaus Copernicus: (1473-1543) A cleric in minor orders, he was a mathematician and astronomer. He formulated the heliocentric view of the universe.

Gregor Mendel: (1822-1884)  Born Johann Mendel, he entered the religious life through the Augustinian Order and took the name of Gregor. He was ordained a priest and is considered the founder of the modern science of genetics.

John Zahm: (1851-1921) A Holy Cross priest, he was also an explorer in South America.

Nocholaus Copernicus
Cleric and scientist
Gabriel Costa: Priest and mathematician.

George LaMaitre: (1894-1966)  A Belgian priest and Professor of Physics, he was made a prelate (Monsignor) by Pope John XXIII. He was the first to propose what is now known as Hubble's Law and first proposed the concept of the Big Bang theory for the origin of the universe.

Roger Bacon: (c. 1214-1294)  An English Franciscan Friar who was a strong proponent of the use of empirical methods for the study of nature. He was asked by Pope Clement IV to write on the place of philosophy within theology.

Pierre Gassendi: (1592-1655)  A French priest who published the first data on the transit of Mercury.

Giovanni Antonelli: (1818-1872)  An Italian priest who, along with Nicolò Barsanti and Felice Matteucci (themselves both priests), invented the first internal combustion engine.

Blessed Francesco Faà di Bruno: (1825-1888) An Italian priest, mathematician, and musician.

José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez: (1737-1799)  A Mexican priest, he made contributions in meteorology, zoology, and botany.

Nicolò Arrighetti: (1709-1767) An Italian Jesuit and professor of natural philosophy, he made contributions in light, heat, and electricity, and on the causes of movement of mercury within barometers.

Thomas Bradwardine (c.1290-1349)  Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a scholar, mathematician, and physicist.

Blessed Nicolas Steno
Father of Geology

Nicolò Barsanti: (1821-1864)   See under Nicolò Arrighetti.

Francis Facione:  Old Roman Catholic archbishop and professor of pharmacology. 

Felice Matteucci: (1808-1887)   See under Nicolò Arrighetti.

Laurent Cassegrain: (1629-1693)  A priest, he was the probable inventor of the Cassegrain telescope.

Heyward Ewart: Old Roman Catholic archbishop and psychologist.

James Curley: (1796-1889)  An Irish Jesuit priest, he was the first director of Georgetown Observatory. Determined the latitude and longitude of Washington, D.C.

Benedetto Castelli: (1578-1643) A Benedictine mathematician, he was a student of Galileo Galilei. He also taught Galileo's son.

Václav Prokop Diviš: (1698-1765) Czech priest. Independent of the experiments of Benjamin Franklin, he studied lightning. He also constructed the first electrified musical instrument.

Franz Liszt: (1811-1886)  Hungarian cleric, musician, and composer.

Keith Steinhurst v.u.z. Westphalia: Old Roman Catholic archbishop and physician.

Gabriele Falloppio: (1523-1562) A religious Canon, anatomists, and physician. The Fallopian tubes are named for him.

Vincent LaRocca:  American priest and lawyer.

Placidus Fixlmillner: (1721-1791) A Benedictine priest and astronomers who was among the first to compute the orbit of Uranus.

Joseph Galien: (1699- c. 1762) A Dominican friar and professor, he wrote on the subjects of aeronautics, hailstorms, and airships. He was an early pioneer in the science behind what would become aviation and aeronautical engineering.

Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora: (1645-1700) A priest, mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer, he is credited with drawing the first map of the entirety of New Spain.

Robert Grosseteste: (c. 1175-1253)  English Bishop of Lincoln. Considered the father of the Scientific Method. 

Stanley Jaki: (1924–2009) Hungarian Benedictine priest; he contributed to the relationship between science and theology.

Karl Kehrle: (1898-1996)  English Benedictine monk and beekeeper. Considered a leading authority on bee breeding, he developed the Buckfast bee.

Otto Kippes: (1905-1994) A priest and astronomer, he worked on calculations of asteroid orbits. 

Edme Mariotte: (c. 1620-1684)  A French priest and physicist, he recognized Boyle's Law, studied the nature of color, and discovered the eye's blind spot.

Nicholas of Cusa: (1401-1464)  German priest, cardinal, philosopher, jurist, mathematician, astronomer, and polymaths. He also participated in the power conflicts between Rome and the Holy Roman Empire.

Jean-Antoine Nollet: (1700-1770) A French abbot and physicist, he discovered osmosis in natural membranes.

Luca Pacioli: (c. 1446-1517)  An Italian Franciscan friar, he published several works on mathematics. Also often regarded as the Father of Accounting.

Louis Rendu: (1789-1859) A French bishop, he made contributions to understanding the mechanisms of glacial motion. The Rendu Glacier in Alaska and Mount Rendu in Antarctica are named for him.

Johannes Ruysch: (c. 1460-1533) Dutch Priest from Utrecht, explorer, cartographer, and astronomer. He created the second oldest known printed map of the New World.

Anton Maria Schyrleus of Rheita: (1604-1660) A Capuchin astronomer and optician, he built Kepler's telescope.

Francesco Lana de Terzi: (1631-1687)   An Italian Jesuit priest, mathematician, naturalist, physicist, and pioneer in aeronautics. He conceptualized a vacuum airship, developed a theory of aerial navigation verified by mathematical accuracy, and is often considered the Father of Aeronautics. He also created a concept that developed into Braille.

Giovanni Battista Venturi: (1746-1822)  Priest; discovered the Venturi effect.

Rutherford Johnson-Etruria-di Daniell: Old Roman Catholic cardinal, economist, and explorer.

János Vitéz: (c.1405-1472) Archbishop, astronomer, and mathematician.

George Coyne: Jesuit priest and astronomy. Director of the Vatican Observatory.

Martin Waldseemüller: (c. 1470-1520) German priest and cartographer. He is credited, along with Matthias Ringmann, with the first recorded usage of the word "America."

Kevin Fitzgerald: American Jesuit priest and molecular geneticist.

Francesco Zantedeschi: (1797-1873) A priest and physicist, he was among the first to recognize the absorption by the atmosphere of red, yellow, and green light. He also wrote on electromagnetism, which would be followed by Michael Faraday's experiments in 1831.

Robert Frederick Drinan: (1920-2007) Jesuit priest, lawyer, and member of the United States House of Representatives.