Catholic Scientist Posters & Possibilities


I saw some posters about Catholic Scientists being distributed by Word on Fire.  They were great and included Abbe Le Maitre,  Abbot Gregor Mendel, and a nun, Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, who helped write the original Basic language for coding. The posters immediately set me to thinking of who I’d like to see on such an item. The original posters showcased 20th century scientists Other possibilities include Blessed Nicolas Steno, Danish convert, first to understand fossils and sedimentary rock, bishop of Hamburg (1600’s) or John O’Keefe, NASA scientist, modern geodesist promoting the pear-shaped earth, pro-life protester (1916-2000). For a woman to match the original trio… Maria Agnesi, 18th century mathematician? Marianne Spallanzani?  Marianne isn’t really fair since her brother, Abbe Lazarro Spallanzani is justly famous, so putting her on a poster instead of him is just being sexist — but a poster with both of them?  There’s an idea. The poster could include Laura Bassi (a professor of biology at Bologna University in the 1700’s!) who was a cousin of theirs as well. 

Copernicus would make a lovely poster. He was a priest and physician as well as astronomer. And he was contemporary with Martin Luther who couldn’t stand him.

Gerbert of Aurillac also known as Pope Sylvester II in the year 1000 A.D. was one of the most amazing men of his age. A poster about him would astonish people for the depth of his scholarship and invention.

If I did groups instead of individuals on my (mythical) posters who else would I do? I might put Francesco Redi, poet and physician, with Blessed Nicolas who visited him from Denmark.  Jerome LeJeune, Servant of God, could go with Saint Albert and Blessed Nicolas. (Yes, Nicolas aka Nils Steensen is a favorite of mine.) Andre Ampere, Giuseppe Volta, Geoffrey Coulomb, Father Francesco Zantedeschi, Luigi Galvani, and Edward Branly would do nicely on a poster about electricity.  Or I could put Ampere on a poster with Lavoisier, who died with Ampere’s father at the guillotine during the French terror, or Ampere with Blessed Fredric Ozanam who was inspired by seeing Ampere pray later in his life.

Lavoisier and the de Jussieu’s are contemporary along with Jan Ingen-Housz who helped explain the process of photosynthesis. Gregor Mendel (already done by Word on Fire) was contemporary with Louis Pasteur but Pasteur probably deserves his own poster.

There’s a whole clutch of Jesuit seismographers from the twentieth century. Father Macelwane tops the list although he carried on work begun by Father Frederick Odenbach. Father Aloysius Linehan, S. J. was in Life magazine for an expedition to the Antarctic. In fact there probably is or should be a poster just of Jesuit scientists. 

And of course, that leads to the three Jesuit scientists whom the Chinese revered. Father Matteo Ricci, Father Ferdinand Verbiest and Father Adam Schall have some of the most remarkable stories ever. (Look them up on the Fordham University website.)

I became familiar with a lot of Catholic scientists but there’s also a lot of other Christian scientists like Michael Faraday with fascinating stories.

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