Histographical Essay

Histographical Essay-33
One of the leading observers was Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625–1712), after whom NASA’s spacecraft mission to Saturn was named.Cassini was not a Jesuit, but he studied with them, and Heilbron made the case that he pursued his career in astronomy because of them.

Cassini’s observations using such meridian lines led to the first empirical confirmation of Kepler’s astronomical discoveries, and two Jesuit associates, Giambattista Riccioli (1598–1671) and Francesco Maria Grimaldi (1618–1663), verified his observations.

Another historian of science and mathematics questioned the contention that Aristotelian philosophy was necessarily an impediment to scientific progress.

Schott used the pump to experiment with atmospheric air and ignored the issue of the vacuum.

This is another instance of Jesuits contributing to the advancement of science within their Aristotelian context.

Several books have presented an overview of Jesuits and science. Agustín Udías wrote a survey of Jesuit contributions to science both before and after the suppression.

Mordechai Feingold edited such a volume, and in his introduction he described the Jesuits as “savants” who “were quite open and adventurous in their discussions despite the suspicions that such exchanges, especially with ‘heretics’ could elicit.” He pointed out that Jesuit educators discussed much contemporary work that was at odds with their official position, such as Copernican astronomy, adding that “not a few Jesuits incorporated” the very controversial subject of atomism “into their lectures.” Feingold’s collection had essays on a wide-ranging number of topics: several on better known Jesuit scholars (Ugo Baldini on Christoph Clavius, Alfredo Dinis on Giambattista Riccioli, Paula Findlen on Athanasius Kircher); several on scientific controversies (Edward Grant on cosmology, William A. His chapters on pre-suppression work start with the establishment of mathematics in the Jesuit curriculum and end with the open acceptance of the Copernican system in the middle of the eighteenth century with attention to both Jesuits in Europe and the wider world. As they were a very well-educated group involved with many of the intellectual trends of their day, one would expect that the Jesuits would have also been involved with new trends in science of the day, and such an assumption is correct.However, it took a long time for the mainstream historiography of early modern science to begin to recognize the Jesuit contributions.The need to determine the date of the spring equinox to fix the date of Easter had always been a boon to mathematics and observational astronomy in the Middle Ages.The method that Heilbron studied consisted of a hole in the wall of various churches that allowed the sun to shine onto a meridian line on the floor of the church; observers marked the path the sun made.Historians have begun to realize that the focus on Aristotelian philosophy could still be useful, and contributions to the study of science, even in astronomy and physics, could be made without adopting Copernican astronomy.They have begun to understand that progress in unraveling the secrets of the natural world resulted not just from the work of a few giants but also from lesser individuals and from groups.Wallace on Jesuits and Galileo, Roger Ariew on Jesuits and Descartes); one on patronage (Martha Baldwin on Jesuit book production); two on Jesuits in less-studied parts of Europe (Victor Navarro on Spain, G. While his overview of the science by modern Jesuits breaks more new ground, in his book he paid more attention to early Jesuit work with meteorology and seismology than has generally been the case, and this formed a bridge between pre-suppression and post-suppression Jesuit science.Udías’s description of Jesuit astronomy complements his earlier work detailing Jesuit observatories around the world, and both volumes attest to the breadth of the Jesuit involvement in science.A number of scholars have concentrated on more limited geographical areas within Europe.Marcus Hellyer focused on the German territories, where, like Dear, he found that Jesuit natural philosophy was transformed “from a largely scholastic body of knowledge and discourse into an experimental, mathematized science.” One of his examples was the Jesuit Kaspar Schott (1608–66), who wrote about the air pump.


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