The relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and science is a widely debated subject. Historically, the Church has often been a patron of sciences. It has been prolific in the foundation of schools, universities and hospitals, and many clergy have been active in the sciences. Historians of science such as Pierre Duhem credit medieval Catholic mathematicians and philosophers such as John Buridan, Nicole Oresme and Roger Bacon as the founders of modern science.[1] Duhem concluded that "the mechanics and physics of which modern times are justifiably proud to proceed, by an uninterrupted series of scarcely perceptible improvements, from doctrines professed in the heart of the medieval schools."[2] Yet, the conflict thesis and other critiques emphasize historical or contemporary conflict between the Catholic Church and science, citing in particular the trial of Galileo in evidence. For its part, the Catholic Church teaches that the Christian faith and science are complementary.

Catholic scientists, both religious and lay, have led scientific discovery in many fields. From ancient times, Christian emphasis on practical charity gave rise to the development of systematic nursing and hospitals and the Church remains the single greatest private provider of medical care and research facilities in the world. Following the Fall of Rome, monasteries and convents remained bastions of scholarship in Western Europe and clergymen were the leading scholars of the age - studying nature, mathematics and the motion of the stars (largely for religious purposes). During the Middle Ages, the Church founded Europe's first universities, producing scholars like Robert Grosseteste, Albert the Great, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas, who helped establish scientific method. During this period, the Church was also a great patron of engineering for the construction of elaborate cathedrals. Since the Renaissance, Catholic scientists have been credited as fathers of a diverse range of scientific fields: Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829) prefigured the theory of evolution with Lamarckism; Friar Gregor Mendel (1822–84) pioneered genetics and Fr Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966) proposed the Big Bang cosmological model. The Jesuits have been particularly active, notably in astronomy. Church patronage of sciences continues through elite institutions like the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Vatican Observatory.

This view of the Church as a patron of sciences is contested by some, who speak either of an historically varied relationship, which has shifted from active and even singular support; to bitter clashes (with accusations of heresy) - or of an enduring intellectual conflict between religion and science. Enlightenment Philosophers such as Voltaire were famously dismissive of the achievements of the Middle Ages. In the 19th century, the conflict thesis emerged to propose an intrinsic conflict or conflicts between the Church and science. The original historical usage of the term asserted that the Church has been in perpetual opposition to science. Later uses of the term denote the Church's epistemological opposition to science. The thesis interprets the relationship between the Church and science as inevitably leading to public hostility, when religion aggressively challenges new scientific ideas — as in the Galileo Affair. An alternative criticism is that the Church opposed particular scientific discoveries that it felt challenged its authority and power - particularly through the Reformation and on through the Enlightenment. This thesis shifts the emphasis away from the perception of the fundamental incompatibility of religion per se and science-in-general to a critique of the structural reasons for the resistance of the Church as a political organisation.

The Church itself rejects the notion of innate conflict. The Vatican Council (1869/70) declared that "Faith and reason are of mutual help to each other".[3] The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1912 proffers that "The conflicts between science and the Church are not real", and states that belief in such conflicts are predicated on false assumptions.[4] Pope John Paul II summarised the Catholic view of the relationship between faith and reason in the encyclical Fides et Ratio, saying "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."[5] The present Papal astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno describes science as an "act of worship" and as "a way of getting intimate with the creator."[6]




Catholic Scientists


The cleric-scientists


·         Nicolaus Copernicus

·         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

·         Marin Mersenne

·         Pierre Gassendi

·         William of Ockham

·         Illustration from Steno's 1667 paper comparing the teeth of a shark head with a fossil tooth

·         Nicole Oresme

·         Albertus Magnus

·         Christopher Clavius

·         First page of Boscovich's Theoria Philosophiæ Naturalis

·         Map of the Far East by Matteo Ricci in 1602

·         Nicolas of Cusa

·         Statue of Roger Bacon in the Oxford University Museum

·         Nicolas Steno

·         machina meteorologic invented by Václav Prokop Diviš worked like lightning rod

·         Athanasius Kircher

·         Medieval depiction of a spherical earth

·         Roger Boscovich

·         Robert Grosseteste




Catholic Jesuit Scientists





















The Jesuits 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."[1] The Jesuits have been described as "the single most important contributor to experimental physics in the seventeenth century."[2] 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."[3]

The Jesuit China missions of the 16th and 17th centuries introduced Western science and astronomy, then undergoing its own revolution, to China. One modern historian writes that in late Ming courts, the Jesuits were "regarded as impressive especially for their knowledge of astronomy, calendar-making, mathematics, hydraulics, and geography."[4] The Society of Jesus introduced, according to Thomas Woods, "a substantial body of scientific knowledge and a vast array of mental tools for understanding the physical universe, including the Euclidean geometry that made planetary motion comprehensible."[5] Another expert quoted by Woods said the scientific revolution brought by the Jesuits coincided with a time when science was at a very low level in China.

This is a list of Jesuit scientists, who contributed somehow to history of science. Members of the Society of Jesus have a historical and occasionally controversial role in the history of science. These are Jesuits who were notable scientists and were not required to be of any significance in discussing the relationship between religion and science. Also, included are fictional characters of Jesuit scientists in literature as well as historical people. It is chronologically arranged by date of death.

16th Century

17th Century

18th Century

19th Century

20th Century


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

21st Century

A note about Muslims.

Muslims made great contributions in medicine, mathematics, and optics, but Islamic science eventually fell into a “stillbirth”. The contributions to science met with a disaster because Islam contended that to believe that the universe was ordered according to certain natural laws, was an insult to Allah who could  behave as arbitrarily as he wants.  What looks like a natural law to you, might just be one of Allah’s habits that he could discontinue at any time.