List of Catholic cleric-scientists

God as Architect/Geometer, from the frontispiece of French Codex Vindobonensis 2554, ca. 1250

This is a list of Roman Catholic clerics[1] throughout history who have made contributions to science. These cleric-scientists include Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, Georges Lemaître, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Pierre Gassendi, Roger Joseph Boscovich, Marin Mersenne, Bernard Bolzano, Francesco Maria Grimaldi, Nicole Oresme, Jean Buridan, Robert Grosseteste, Christopher Clavius, Nicolas Steno, Athanasius Kircher, Giovanni Battista Riccioli, William of Ockham, and others listed below. The Catholic Church has also produced many lay scientists and mathematicians.

The Jesuits in particular have made numerous significant contributions to the development of science. For example, the Jesuits have dedicated significant study to earthquakes, and seismology has been described as "the Jesuit science."[2][3] The Jesuits have been described as "the single most important contributor to experimental physics in the seventeenth century."[4] According to Jonathan Wright in his book God's Soldiers, by the eighteenth century the Jesuits had "contributed to the development of pendulum clocks, pantographs, barometers, reflecting telescopes and microscopes, to scientific fields as various as magnetism, optics and electricity. They observed, in some cases before anyone else, the colored bands on Jupiter’s surface, the Andromeda nebula and Saturn’s rings. They theorized about the circulation of the blood (independently of Harvey), the theoretical possibility of flight, the way the moon effected the tides, and the wave-like nature of light."[5]

The cleric-scientists


Roger Bacon's circular diagrams relating to the scientific study of optics
Monsignor Georges Lemaître, priest and scientist
Gregor Mendel, Augustinian monk and geneticist
Sacrobosco's De sphaera mundi
Illustration from Nicolas Steno's 1667 paper comparing the teeth of a shark head with a fossil tooth
First page of Boscovich's Theoria Philosophiæ Naturalis
Map of the Far East by Matteo Ricci in 1602
Statue of Roger Bacon in the Oxford University Museum
machina meteorologic invented by Václav Prokop Diviš worked like lightning rod
Medieval depiction of a spherical earth





















See also


  1. This list includes priests, bishops (including popes), deacons, monks, abbots, and those who received minor orders in the Church
  2. Susan Elizabeth Hough, Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man, Princeton University Press, 2007, ISBN 0691128073, p. 68.
  3. Woods 2005, p. 109.
  4. Lindberg & Numbers 1986, p. 154.
  5. Wright 2004, p. 200.
  7. 1 2 Woods 2005, p. 96.
  8. Woods 2005, p. 95.
  9. Woods 2005, p. 4.
  10. Woods 2005, p. 36.
  11. ca:Benet Viñes
  15. The History of the Telescope by Henry C. King Page 44
  16. Gregerson, Erik, Astronomical Observations: Astronomy and the Study of Deep Space, Rosen Education Service, 2009, ISBN 1615300252,
  • Heilbron, J. L. (1999). The Sun in the Church: Cathedrals as Solar Observatories. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 
  • Lindberg, David C.; Numbers, Ronald L., eds. (1986). God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter Between Christianity and Science. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
  • Walsh, James J. (2007). Catholic Churchmen in Science: Sketches of the Lives of Catholic Ecclesiastics Who Were among the Great Founders in Science. Kessinger. ISBN 978-0-548-53218-8. 
  • Woods, Thomas E. (2005). How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Washington, DC: Regnery. 
  • Wright, Jonathan (2004). God's Soldiers: Adventure, Politics, intrigue and Power: A History of the Jesuits. London: HarperCollins. 

Further reading

  • Barr, Stephen M. Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 2006.
  • Broad, William J. "How the Church aided 'Heretical' Astronomy," New York Times, October 19, 1999.
  • Feingold, Mordechai, ed. Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002.
  • Gilson, Etienne, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970.
  • Grant, Edward. The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  • Grant, Edward. God and Reason in the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Hannam, James. The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2011.
  • Horn, Stephan Otto, ed. Creation and Evolution: A Conference with Pope Benedict XVI in Castel Gandolfo. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 2008.
  • Jaki, Stanley. The Savior of Science. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.
  • Jaki, Stanley. Science and Creation: From Eternal Cycles to an Oscillating University. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1986.
  • Lindberg, David C. The Beginnings of Western Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
  • MacDonnell, Joseph E. Jesuit Geometers. St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1989.
  • Schönborn, Christoph Cardinal. Chance or Purpose?: Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2007.
  • Spitzer, Robert J. New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.
  • Walsh, James J. The Popes and Science. New York: Fordham University Press, 1911.
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