Famous Catholic Scientists

Saint Luke (c.72) - Catholic patron saint of physicians and surgeons (himself being a physician, iconographer and evangelist)

Bede, the Venerable (c.672–735) - Catholic monk who wrote a work On the Nature of Things, and several books on the mathematical / astronomical subject of computus, the most influential entitled On the Reckoning of Time. He made original discoveries concerning the nature of the tides and his works on computus became required elements of the training of clergy, and thus greatly influenced early medieval knowledge of the natural world.

**Pope Silvester II **(c.950–1003) - A scientist and book collector, he influenced the teaching of math and astronomy in church-run schools, and raised the cathedral school at Rheims to the height of prosperity.

Hermannus Contractus (1013–1054) - Wrote on geometry, mathematics, and the astrolabe. He was also a monk who composed Marian antiphons and was essentially beatified.

Robert Grosseteste (c.1175–1253) - Bishop of Lincoln, he was the central character of the English intellectual movement in the first half of the 13th century and is considered the founder of scientific thought in Oxford. He had a great interest in the natural world and wrote texts on the mathematical sciences of optics, astronomy and geometry. He affirmed that experiments should be used in order to verify a theory, testing its consequences.

**Pope John XXI **(1215–1277) - He wrote the widely used medical text Thesaurus pauperum before becoming Pope.

Albertus Magnus (c.1193–1280) - Patron saint of scientists in Catholicism who may have been the first to isolate arsenic. He wrote that: “Natural science does not consist in ratifying what others have said, but in seeking the causes of phenomena.”

Roger Bacon (c.1214–1294) - He was an English philosopher who emphasized empiricism and has been presented as one of the earliest advocates of the modern scientific method. He joined the Franciscan Order around 1240, where he was influenced by Grosseteste. Bacon was responsible for making the concept of “laws of nature” widespread, and contributed in such areas as mechanics, geography and, most of all, optics.

Theodoric of Freiberg (c.1250–c.1310) - Dominican who is believed to have given the first correct explanation for the rainbow in De iride et radialibus impressionibus or On the Rainbow.

Thomas Bradwardine (c.1290–1349) - He was an English archbishop, often called “the Profound Doctor”. He developed studies as one of the Oxford Calculators of Merton College, Oxford University. These studies would lead to important developments in mechanics.

Jean Buridan (1300–1358) - Catholic priest and one of the most influential philosophers of the later Middle Ages. He developed the theory of impetus, which was an important step toward the modern concept of inertia.

Nicole Oresme (c.1323–1382) - Theologian and Bishop of Lisieux, he was one of the early founders and popularizers of modern sciences. One of his many scientific contributions is the discovery of the curvature of light through atmospheric refraction, he also showed that the reasons proposed by the physics of Aristotle against the movement of the Earth were not valid. Oresme strongly opposed astrology and speculated about the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464) - Cardinal and theologian who made contributions to the field of mathematics by developing the concepts of the infinitesimal and of relative motion. His philosophical speculations also anticipated Copernicus’ heliocentric world-view.

**Ignazio Danti **(1536–1586) - Bishop of Alatri who convoked a diocesan synod to deal with abuses. He was also a mathematician who wrote on Euclid, an astronomer, and a designer of mechanical devices.

René Descartes (1596–1650) - Descartes was one of the key thinkers of the Scientific Revolution in the Western World. He is also honoured by having the Cartesian coordinate system used in plane geometry and algebra named after him. He did important work on invariants and geometry.

Giovanni Battista Riccioli (1598-1671) - Italian astronomer. He was a Jesuit who entered the order in 1614. He was also the first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a freely falling body.

Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) - German Jesuit scholar who published around 40 works, most notably in the fields of oriental studies, geology and medicine. He made an early study of Egyptian hieroglyphs. One of the first people to observe microbes through a microscope, he was thus ahead of his time in proposing that the plague was caused by an infectious microorganism and in suggesting effective measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Kircher has been compared to Leonardo da Vinci for his inventiveness and the breadth and depth of his work

**Nicolas Steno **(1638-1686) - Contributions to paleontology and geology

Roger Joseph (1711-1787) - Physicist, astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, diplomat, poet, and Jesuit. He is famous for his atomic theory, given as a clear, precisely-formulated system utilizing principles of Newtonian mechanics. This work inspired Michael Faraday to develop field theory for electromagnetic interaction, and was even a basis for Albert Einstein’s attempts for a unified field theory, according to Einstein’s coworker Lancelot Law Whyte. Boscovich also gave many important contributions to astronomy, including the first geometric procedure for determining the equator of a rotating planet from three observations of a surface feature and for computing the orbit of a planet from three observations of its position.

Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718–1799) - Linguist, mathematician, and philosopher. Agnesi is credited with writing the first book discussing both differential and integral calculus. She was an honorary member of the faculty at the University of Bologna.

Augustin Louis Cauchy (1789–1857) - French mathematician. He started the project of formulating and proving the theorems of calculus in a rigorous manner and was thus an early pioneer of analysis. He also gave several important theorems in complex analysis and initiated the study of permutation groups. A profound mathematician, Cauchy exercised by his perspicuous and rigorous methods a great influence over his contemporaries and successors. His writings cover the entire range of mathematics and mathematical physics.

Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) - Augustinian priest and scientist often called the “father of modern genetics” for his study of the inheritance of traits in pea plants. Mendel showed that the inheritance of traits follows particular laws, which were later named after him. The significance of Mendel’s work was not recognised until the turn of the 20th century. Its rediscovery prompted the foundation of genetics.

**Louis Pasteur **(1822-1895) - French chemist best known for his remarkable breakthroughs in microbiology. His experiments confirmed the germ theory of disease, and he created the first vaccine for rabies. He is best known to the general public for showing how to stop milk and wine from going sour - this process came to be called pasteurization. He is regarded as one of the three main founders of bacteriology, together with Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch. He also made many discoveries in the field of chemistry, most notably the asymmetry of crystals.

Francesco Faà di Bruno (1825—1888) - Italian mathematician most linked to Turin. He is known for Faà di Bruno’s formula and being a spiritual writer beatified in 1988.

Armand David (1826–1900) - Catholic missionary to China and member of the Lazarists who considered his religious duties to be his principle concern. He was also a botanist with the author abbreviation David and as a zoologist he described several species new to the West.

Pierre Duhem (1861–1916) - He worked on Thermodynamic potentials and wrote histories advocating that the Roman Catholic Church helped advance science.

E. T. Whittaker (1873-1956) - Converted to Catholicism in 1930 and member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. His 1946 Donnellan Lecture was entitled on Space and Spirit. Theories of the Universe and the Arguments for the Existence of God. He also received the Copley Medal and had written on Mathematical physics before conversion.

Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) - Catholic priest, honorary prelate, professor of physics and astronomer. Lemaître proposed what became known as the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe, although he called it his ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom’. He was a pioneer in applying Einstein’s theory of general relativity to cosmology: suggesting a pre-cursor of Hubble’s law in 1927, and publishing his primeval atom theory the pages of Nature in 1931.

Carlos Chagas Filho (1910-2000) - A neuroscientist from Rio de Janeiro who headed the Pontifical Academy of Sciences for 16 years. He studied the Shroud of Turin and his “the Origin of the Universe”, “the Origin of Life”, and “the Origin of Man” involved an understanding between Catholicism and Science.

Don’t forget Enrico Fermi!

You forgot Galileo. :eek:

Ah, poor Copernicus as well!

I think Catholics would kind of like to forget Galileo.

I would not. I would like the whole story told. That is all that I ask

I agree.

And should we add Marchese Guglielmo Marconi to the list?

How could you leave out William of Ockham?

Did anyone mention Rene Descartes? He was a mathematician and philosopher; and I would say a scientist by virtue of the former.

Rene Descartes is in the list. As for Galileo, what’s there to be afraid of? I didn’t mention him because Galileo’s ideas were not entirely correct as far as concerned.

You can read more about Galileo here and here.

If you have a famous Catholic (loyal to the Magisterium) scientist in mind, please feel free to add them in this thread. If you can find some from the 2nd century onwards i would be grateful. :slight_smile:

Ockham’s razor, I love that theory.

Actually, the whole Galileo affair has been like much of popular history, condensed to appease the secularist’s view of events. Public schools have played a great part in circulating this view.

Pierre Teihard de Chardin

Try de Santillana’s THE CRIME OF GALILEO, best book I know of, about the affair. Everyone concerned comes off with egg on their face.


Wasn’t Gallelio loyal? I mean, after he was told to stop spreading his theory he did, no? And he remained a devout Catholic throughout the rest of his life.

Yes, he was loyal to his Catholic faith, so I’m not sure why O.S. Luke had to bring it up, unless he was trying to stir up the pot. :hmmm: Actually, it makes for a good topic/ thread, but I wouldn’t focus so much on Galileo, and I would entitle my thread: "Was/is the CC ever opposed to Science?

As is true of a lot of history, things are a little more complicated than that. There is some question, historically, whether he was technically in violation of what he was instructed were the limits of how he could address the heliocentric theory, by Cardinal Bellarmine in 1616, when he was called before the Commission of the Holy Office in 1533 and tried. Again, I recommend THE CRIME OF GALILEO.


Very good list of Catholic Scientists. Thanks for god information.


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