Catholic Scientists

List of Roman Catholic cleric–scientists

Many Roman Catholicclerics[1] throughout history have made significant contributions to science. These cleric-scientists include such illustrious names as Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, Georges Lemaître, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Pierre Gassendi, Roger Joseph Boscovich, Marin Mersenne, 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]



[edit]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 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
  • Lorenzo Albacete (1941) Physicist and theologian
  • José de Acosta (1539–1600) – Jesuit missionary and naturalist who wrote one of the very first detailed and realistic descriptions of the new world
  • François d'Aguilon (1567–1617) – Belgian Jesuit mathematician, physicist, and architect.
  • Albert of Saxony (philosopher) (c. 1320–1390) – German bishop known for his contributions to logic and physics; with Buridan he helped develop the theory that was a precursor to the modern theory of inertia
  • Albertus Magnus (c. 1206–1280) – "One of the most famous precursors of modern science in the High Middle Ages."[6] Patron saint of natural sciences; Works in physics, logic, metaphysics, biology, and psychology.
  • Giulio AlenioSJ - Italian theologian, astronomer and mathematician. He was sent to the Far East as a missionary and adopted a Chinese name and customs. He wrote 25 books including a cosmography and a Life of Jesus in Chinese.
  • José María Algué (1856–1930) – Meteorologist who invented the barocyclonometer
  • José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez (1737–1799) – Scientist, historian, cartographer, meteorologist; wrote more than thirty treatises on a variety of scientific subjects
  • Francesco Castracane degli Antelminelli (1817–1899) – Botanist who was one of the first to introduce microphotography into the study of biology
  • Giovanni Antonelli (1818–1872) – Director of the Ximenian Observatory of Florence; collaborated on the design of a prototype of the internal combustion engine
  • Nicolò Arrighetti (1709–1767) – Wrote treatises on light, heat, and electricity.
  • Giuseppe Asclepi (1706–1776) – Astronomer and physician; director of the Collegio Romano observatory; The lunar crater Asclepi is named after him.


  • Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294) – Significant contributions to mathematics and optics; forerunner of modern scientific method.
  • Bernardino Baldi (1533–1617) – Mathematician and writer
  • Eugenio Barsanti (1821–1864) – Possible inventor of the internal combustion engine
  • Bartholomeus Amicus (1562–1649) – Wrote on philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, and the concept of vacuum and its relationship with God.
  • Daniello Bartoli (1608–1685) – Bartoli and fellow Jesuit astronomer Niccolò Zucchi are credited as probably having been the first to see the equatorial belts on the planet Jupiter
  • Joseph Bayma (1816–1892) – Known for work in stereochemistry and mathematics
  • Giacopo Belgrado (1704–1789) – Experimental works in physics, professor of mathematics and physics, and court mathematician
  • Mario Bettinus (1582–1657) – Jesuit philosopher, mathematician and astronomer; lunar crater Bettinus named after him
  • Giuseppe Biancani (1566–1624) – Jesuit astronomer, mathematician, and selenographer, after whom the crater Blancanus on the Moon is named
  • Jacques de Billy (1602–1679) – Produced a number of results in number theory which have been named after him; published several astronomical tables; The crater Billy on the Moon is named after him.
  • Paolo Boccone (1633–1704) – Cistercian botanist who contributed to the fields of medicine and toxicology
  • Bernard Bolzano (1781–1848) – Mathematician and logician; other interests included metaphysics, ideas, sensation, and truth.
  • Anselmus de Boodt (1550–1632) – One of the founders of mineralogy
  • Theodoric Borgognoni (1205–1298) – Medieval Surgeon who made important contributions to antiseptic practice and anaesthetics
  • Christopher Borrus (1583–1632) – Mathematician and astronomy who made observations on the magnetic variation of the compass
  • Roger Joseph Boscovich (1711–1787) – formulation of modern atomic theory, important contributions to astronomy
  • Joachim Bouvet (1656–1730) – Jesuit sinologist and cartographer who did his work in China
  • Michał Boym (c. 1612–1659) – One of the first westerners to travel within the Chinese mainland, and the author of numerous works on Asian fauna, flora and geography.
  • Thomas Bradwardine (c. 1290–1349) – Mathematician who contributed to mean speed theorem; one of the Oxford Calculators
  • Henri Breuil (1877–1961) – Archaeologist, anthropologist, ethnologist and geologist.
  • Jan Brożek (1585–1652) – Polish polymath, mathematician, astronomer, and physician; the most prominent Polish mathematician of the 17th century
  • Louis-Ovide Brunet (1826–1876) – One of the founding fathers of Canadian botany
  • Francesco Faà di Bruno (c. 1825–1888) – Mathematician beatified by Pope John Paul II
  • Giordano Bruno (1548–1600) – Dominican philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer who believed in the infinity of the universe; burned at the stake for other heretical views.
  • Ismaël Bullialdus (1605–1694) – Astronomer and member of the Royal Society; the Bullialdus crater is named in his honor
  • Jean Buridan (c. 1300 – after 1358) – Early ideas of momentum and inertial motion; sowed the seeds of the Copernican revolution in Europe
  • Roberto BusaSJ (1913-2011) - He wrote a lemmatization of the complete works of St. Thomas Aquinas (Index Thomisticus) which was later digitalized by IBM and ultimately developed in the creation of HTML


  • Niccolò Cabeo (1586–1650) – Jesuit mathematician; the crater Cabeus is named in his honor
  • Nicholas Callan (1799–1846) – Priest & Irish scientist best known for his work on the induction coil
  • Jean Baptiste Carnoy (1836–1899) – Founder of the science of cytology
  • Giovanni di Casali (died c. 1375) – Provided a graphical analysis of the motion of accelerated bodies
  • Paolo Casati (1617–1707) – Jesuit mathematician who wrote on astronomy and vacuums; The crater Casatus on the Moon is named after him.
  • Laurent Cassegrain (1629–1693) – Probable namesake of the Cassegrain telescope; The crater Cassegrain on the Moon is named after him
  • Benedetto Castelli (1578–1643) – Benedictine mathematician; long-time friend and supporter of Galileo Galilei, who was his teacher; wrote an important work on fluids in motion
  • Bonaventura Cavalieri (1598–1647) – He is known for his work on the problems of optics and motion, work on the precursors of infinitesimal calculus, and the introduction of logarithms to Italy. Cavalieri's principle in geometry partially anticipated integral calculus; the lunar crater Cavalerius is named in his honor
  • Antonio José Cavanilles (1745–1804) – A leading Spanish taxonomic botanist of the 18th century
  • Francesco Cetti (1726–1778) – Jesuit zoologist and mathematician
  • Tommaso Ceva (1648–1737) – Jesuit mathematician and professor who wrote treatises on geometry, gravity, and arithmetic
  • Christopher Clavius (1538–1612) – Respected Jesuit Astronomer and mathematician who headed the commission that yielded the Gregorian calendar; wrote influential astronomical textbook.
  • Guy Consolmagno (1952– ) – Jesuit astronomer and planetary scientist
  • Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) –Renaissance astronomer famous for his heliocentric cosmology that set in motion the Copernican Revolution
  • Vincenzo Coronelli (1650–1718) – Franciscan cosmographer, cartographer, encyclopedist, and globe-maker
  • George Coyne (1933– ) – Jesuit astronomer and former director of the Vatican Observatory
  • James Cullen (mathematician) (1867–1933) – Jesuit mathematician who published what is now known as Cullen numbers in number theory
  • James Curley (astronomer) (1796–1889) – First director of Georgetown Observatory; determined the latitude and longitude of Washington D.C.
  • Albert Curtz (1600–1671) – Jesuit astronomer who expanded on the works of Tycho Brahe and contributed to early understanding of the moon; The crater Curtius on the Moon is named after him.
  • Johann Baptist Cysat (1587–1657) – Jesuit mathematician and astronomer, after whom the lunar crater Cysatus is named; published the first printed European book concerning Japan; one of the first to make use of the newly developed telescope; most important work was on comets
  • Jean-Baptiste Chappe d'Auteroche (1722-1769) - Astronomer best known for his observations of the transits of Venus


  • Ignazio Danti (1536–1586) – Dominican mathematician, astronomer, cosmographer, and cartographer
  • Armand David (1826–1900) – Zoologist and botanist who did important work in both areas in China
  • Charles-Michel de l'Épée (1712–1789) – Known as the "father of the deaf" and established the world's first free school for the deaf
  • Francesco Denza (1834–1894) – Meteorologist, astronomer, and director of Vatican Observatory
  • Václav Prokop Diviš (1698–1765) – Studied the lightning rod independent of Franklin; constructed the first electrified musical instrument in history
  • Johann Dzierzon (1811–1906) – Pioneering apiarist who discovered the phenomenon of parthenogenesis among bees, and designed the first successful movable-frame beehive; has been described as the "father of modern apiculture"


  • Honoré Fabri (1607–1688) – Jesuit mathematician and physicist
  • Jean-Charles de la Faille (1597–1652) – Jesuit mathematician who determined the center of gravity of the sector of a circle for the first time
  • Gabriele Falloppio (1523–1562) – One of the most important anatomists and physicians of the sixteenth century. The Fallopian tubes, which extend from the uterus to the ovaries, are named for him.
  • Gyula Fényi (1845–1927) – Jesuit astronomer and director of the Haynald Observatory; noted for his observations of the sun; The crater Fényi on the Moon is named after him
  • Louis Feuillée (1660–1732) – Explorer, astronomer, geographer, and botanist
  • Placidus Fixlmillner (1721–1791) – Benedictine priest and one of the first astronomers to compute the orbit of Uranus
  • Paolo Frisi (1728–1784) – Mathematician and astronomer who did significant work in hydraulics
  • José Gabriel Funes (1963– ) – Jesuit astronomer and current director of the Vatican Observatory


  • Joseph Galien (1699 – c. 1762) – Dominican professor who wrote on aeronautics, hailstorms, and airships
  • Jean Gallois (1632–1707) – French scholar and member of Academie des sciences
  • Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655) – French astronomer and mathematician who published the first data on the transit of Mercury; best known intellectual project attempted to reconcile Epicurean atomism with Christianity
  • Agostino Gemelli (1878–1959) – Franciscan physician and psychologist; founded Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan
  • Johannes von Gmunden (c. 1380–1442) – Mathematician and astronomer who compiled astronomical tables; Asteroid 15955 Johannesgmunden named in his honor
  • Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645–1700) – Polymath, mathematician, astronomer, and cartographer; drew the first map of all of New Spain
  • Andrew Gordon (Benedictine) (1712–1751) – Benedictine monk, physicist, and inventor who made the first electric motor
  • Christoph Grienberger (1561–1636) – Jesuit astronomer after whom the crater Gruemberger on the Moon is named; verified Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's moons.
  • Francesco Maria Grimaldi (1618–1663) – Discovered the diffraction of light, and indeed coined the term "diffraction"; investigated the free fall of objects; built and used instruments to measure geological features on the moon
  • Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175 – 1253) – One of the most knowledgeable men of the Middle Ages; has been called "the first man ever to write down a complete set of steps for performing a scientific experiment."[7]
  • Paul Guldin (1577–1643) – Jesuit mathematician and astronomer who discovered the Guldinus theorem to determine the surface and the volume of a solid of revolution
  • Bartolomeu de Gusmão (1685–1724) – Known for his early work on lighter-than-air airship design


  • Johann Georg Hagen (1847–1930) – Director of the Georgetown and Vatican Observatories; The crater Hagen on the Moon is named after him.
  • Nicholas Halma (1755–1828) – French mathematician and translator
  • Jean-Baptiste du Hamel (1624–1706) – French natural philosopher and secretary of the Academie Royale des Sciences
  • René Just Haüy (1743–1822) – Father of crystallography
  • Maximilian Hell (1720–1792) – Jesuit astronomer and director of the Vienna Observatory; the crater Hell on the Moon is named after him.
  • Michał Heller (1936– ) – Templeton Prize winner and prolific writer on numerous scientific topics
  • Lorenz Hengler (1806–1858) – Often credited as the inventor of the horizontal pendulum
  • Hermann of Reichenau (1013–1054) – Historian, music theorist, astronomer, and mathematician
  • Pierre Marie Heude (1836–1902) – Jesuit missionary and zoologist who studied the natural history of Eastern Asia
  • Franz von Paula Hladnik (1773–1844) – Botanist who discovered several new kinds of plants, and certain genera have been named after him
  • Giovanni Battista Hodierna (1597–1660) – Astronomer who catalogued nebulous objects and developed an early microscope
  • Victor-Alphonse Huard (1853–1929) – Naturalist, educator, writer, and promoter of the natural sciences


  • Maximus von Imhof (1758–1817) – German Augustinian physicist and director of the Munich Academy of Sciences
  • Giovanni Inghirami (1779–1851) – Italian astronomer; there is a valley on the moon named after him as well as a crater


  • François Jacquier (1711–1788) – Franciscan mathematician and physicist; at his death he was connected with nearly all the great scientific and literary societies of Europe
  • Stanley Jaki (1924–2009) – Benedictine priest and prolific writer who wrote on the relationship between science and theology
  • Ányos Jedlik (1800–1895) – Benedictine engineer, physicist, and inventor; considered by Hungarians and Slovaks to be the unsung father of the dynamo and electric motor


  • Georg Joseph Kamel (1661–1706) – Jesuit missionary and botanist who established the first pharmacy in the Philippines
  • Otto Kippes (1905–1994) – Acknowledged for his work in asteroid orbit calculations; the main belt asteroid 1780 Kippes was named in his honour
  • Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680) – The father of Egyptology; "Master of a hundred arts"; wrote an encyclopedia of China; one of the first people to observe microbes through a microscope
  • Wenceslas Pantaleon Kirwitzer (1588–1626) – Jesuit astronomer and missionary who published observations of comets
  • Jan Krzysztof Kluk (1739–1796) – Naturalist agronomist and entomologist who wrote a multi-volume work on Polish animal life
  • Sebastian Kneipp (1821–1897) – One of the founders of the Naturopathic medicine movement
  • Marian Wolfgang Koller (1792–1866) – Professor who wrote on astronomy, physics, and meteorology
  • Franz Xaver Kugler (1862–1929) – Jesuit chemist, mathematician, and Assyriologist who is most noted for his studies of cuneiform tablets and Babylonian astronomy


  • Nicolas Louis de Lacaille (1713-1762) - French astronomer noted for cataloguing stars, nebulous objects, and constellations
  • Eugene Lafont (1837–1908) – Jesuit physicist, astronomer, and founder of the first Scientific Society in India
  • Antoine de Laloubère (1600–1664) – The first mathematician to study the properties of the helix
  • Bernard Lamy (1640–1715) – Philosopher and mathematician who wrote on the parallelogram of forces
  • Pierre André Latreille (1762–1833) – Entomologist whose works describing insects assigned many of the insect taxa still in use today
  • Georges Lemaître (1894–1966) – Father of the Big Bang Theory
  • Thomas Linacre (c. 1460–1524) – Humanist translator and physician
  • Francis Line (1595–1675) – Magnetic clock and sundial maker who disagreed with some of the findings of Newton and Boyle
  • Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz (1606–1682) – Prolific writer on a variety of scientific subjects; a earlier writer on probability


  • Jean Mabillon (1632–1707) – Benedictine monk and scholar, considered the founder of palaeography and diplomatics
  • James B. Macelwane (1883–1956) – "The best-known Jesuit seismologist" and "one of the most honored practicioners of the science of all time"; wrote the first textbook on seismology in America.
  • Paul McNally (1890–1955) – Jesuit astronomer and director of Georgetown Observatory; the crater McNally on the Moon is named after him.
  • Pierre Macq (1930– ) – Physicist who was awarded the Francqui Prize on Exact Sciences for his work on experimental nuclear physics
  • Manuel Magri (1851–1907) – Jesuit ethnographer, archaeologist and writer; one of Malta's pioneers in archaeology
  • Emmanuel Maignan (1601–1676) – Physicist and professor of medicine who published works on gnomonics and perspective
  • Charles Malapert (1581–1630) – Jesuit writer, astronomer, and proponent of Aristotelian cosmology; also known for observations of sunpots and of the lunar surface, and the crater Malapert on the Moon is named after him
  • Nicolas Malebranche (1638–1715) – Philosopher who studied physics, optics, and the laws of motion; disseminated the ideas of Descartes and Leibniz
  • Marcin of Urzędów (c. 1500–1573) – Physician, pharmacist, and botanist
  • Joseph Maréchal (1878–1944) – Jesuit philosopher and psychologist
  • Marie-Victorin (1885–1944) – Botanist best known as the father of the Jardin botanique de Montréal
  • Edme Mariotte (c. 1620–1684) – Physicist who recognized Boyle's Law and wrote about the nature of color
  • Francesco Maurolico (1494–1575) – Made contributions to the fields of geometry, optics, conics, mechanics, music, and astronomy; gave the first known proof by mathematical induction
  • Christian Mayer (astronomer) (1719–1783) – Jesuit astronomer most noted for pioneering the study of binary stars
  • Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) – Augustinian monk and father of genetics
  • Pietro Mengoli (1626–1686) – Mathematician who first posed the famous Basel Problem
  • Giuseppe Mercalli (1850–1914) – Volcanologist and director of the Vesuvius Observatory; best remembered today for his Mercalli scale for measuring earthquakes which is still in use
  • Marin Mersenne (1588–1648) – Philosopher, mathematician, and music theorist who is often referred to as the "father of acoustics"
  • Paul of Middelburg (1446–1534) – Wrote important works on the reform of the Calendar
  • Maciej Miechowita (1457–1523) – Wrote the first accurate geographical and ethnographical description of Eastern Europe; also wrote two medical treatises