Friday, April 13, 2018

James B. Macelwane


James Macelwane was born near Sandusky Bay, Ohio, the second eldest in an Irish family of nine children. His father was a fisherman and farmer, his childhood spent helping his father with the nets. He joined the Jesuits in 1903, intending to be a missionary. To that end, he trained with German Jesuits, in order to learn a foreign language. He would end up being conversant in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek and Latin. Assigned to the Missouri Province, he took his first geology course in 1910 at St. Louis University, just as Father Odenbach began to organize the Jesuit Seismological Service throughout the US and Canada. Odenbach installed eighteen seismographs across the continent at Jesuit colleges, the data was sent to the International Central Station in Strassburg. Macelwane, still a student was asked to assist with setting up and monitoring the SLU station. When the seismograph malfunctioned, Macelwane and a friend took it apart and repaired it. Macelwane used the experience to publish his first paper, “The Physics of the Seismograph”.

Since the seismograph station was in the meterological observatory, he also became interested in meterology.  This provided the foundation for his later discovery, that microseisms, barely detectable shaking in the earth’s crust, were caused by storms at sea. Macelwane was ordained a priest in 1918, after obtaining an MA in science, and moved to the University of California to obtain his Ph.D under Professor Elmer E. Hall, the first man to measure vibrations in buildings. With Dr. Hall’s assistance, he established the first chain of seismographs in northern California and studied several California earthquakes. He received the first US doctorate in physics with a seismological dissertation and organized the first direction to the University of California’s graduate studies in seismology. Returning to St. Louis University, he set up the same program there. By 1944, he had established St. Louis University’s Institute of Technology and became its first Dean. The purpose of the program was, in part, to assist in the search for oil deposits. In this, it was very successful.

Shortly after, he re-built the Jesuit study of this science into the Jesuit Seismological Association, with the central research center in St. Louis. He also helped organize the Eastern Section of the Seismological Society of America. During this time, he also directed several doctoral candidates in ground-breaking research.

In honor of his work, James Macelwane was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1944, received the Bowie Medal of the American Geophysical Union in 1948, and the Mendel Medal of Villanova University in 1955. In addition, he received honorary doctoral degrees from Saint Norbert’s College, Washington University, John Carroll University, and Marquette University. He served on Committees of Education of both the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) and the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (AIME). Both organizations honored him with their highest awards, the SEG with an honorary life membership and the AIME with the Jackling Lecturer award.  Fr. Macelwane is  the namesake of the the Macelwane Fellowship awarded by the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and also of the James B. Macelwane Medal awarded annually by the American Geophysical Union(AGU) The medal is regarded as the highest honor for young scientists in the field of Geological and Planetary Sciences. The geological division of the SLU Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences is housed in Macelwane Hall.

Giovanni Battista Riccioli

Italy, 1598-1671
Italian astronomer Giovanni Riccioli is known, among other things, for his experiments with pendulums and with falling bodies, for his discussion of 126 arguments concerning the motion of the Earth, and for introducing the current scheme of lunar nomenclature. Riccioli dealt not only with astronomy in his research, but also with physics, arithmetic, geometry, optics, gnomonics, geography, and chronology. Heentered the Society of Jesus 6 Oct., 1614. After teaching philosophy and theology for a number of years, chiefly at Parma and Bologna, he followed his superiors advice and devoted himself to the study of astronomy, which Kepler and Copernicus had made a hot topic. Riccioli ignored the misconceptions of the ancients and began to reconstruct astronomy from first principles. This led to his Almagestum novum, astronomiam veterem novamque complectens (1651), considered by many the most important literary work of the Jesuits during the seventeenth century. His most important contribution to astronomy was perhaps his detailed telescopic study of the moon, made in collaboration with P. Grimaldi. The latter’s excellent lunar map was inserted in the “Almagestum novum”, and the lunar nomenclature they adopted is still in use.

For example, he named large lunar areas such as the Mare Tranquillitatis, (the Sea of Tranquility, site of the Apollo 11 landing in 1969) for weather. He named craters for significant astronomers, grouping them by philosophies and time periods. Although Riccioli rejected the Copernican theory, he named a prominent lunar crater “Copernicus”, and he named other important craters after other proponents of the Copernican theory such as Kepler, Galileo and Lansbergius.

Riccioli’s map also notes the moon is not inhabited. This countered speculations found in the works of Nicholas of Cusa, Giordano Bruno, and even Kepler, and even later writers like Bernard de Fontenelle and William Herschel.

Riccioli’s encyclopedic work consisted of over 1500 folio pages (38 cm x 25 cm) densely packed with text, tables, and illustrations. It became a standard technical reference book for astronomers all over Europe: John Flamsteed (1646–1719), the first English astronomer royal, a Copernican and a Protestant, used it for his Gresham lectures; Jérôme Lalande (1732–1807) of the Paris Observatory cited it extensively even though it was an old book at that point.

Within its two volumes were ten “books” covering every subject within astronomy:
  1. the celestial sphere and subjects such as celestial motions, the equator, ecliptic, zodiac, etc.
  2. the earth and its size, gravity and pendulum motion, etc.
  3. the sun, its size and distance, its motion, observations involving it, etc.
  4. the moon, its phases, its size and distance, etc. (detailed maps of the moon as seen through a telescope were included)
  5. lunar and solar eclipses
  6. the fixed stars
  7. the planets and their motions, etc. (representations of each as seen with a telescope were included);
  8. comets and novae (“new stars”)
  9. the structure of the universe—the heliocentric and geocentric theories, etc.
  10. calculations related to astronomy.

Riccioli envisioned that the New Almagest would have three volumes, but only the first (with its 1500 pages split into two parts) was completed.  Riccioli is credited with being the first person to precisely measure the acceleration due to gravity of falling bodies.  He sought to develop a pendulum whose period was precisely one second – such a pendulum would complete 86,400 swings in a 24-hour period. This he directly tested, twice, by using stars to mark time and recruiting a team of nine fellow Jesuits to count swings and maintain the amplitude of swing for 24 hours. He dropped equally weighted balls of wood and lead, noted the difference in descent times and knew to attribute the difference to air resistance, noting that air density had to be considered when dealing with falling bodies. He illustrated the reliability of his experiments by providing detailed descriptions of how they were carried out, so that anyone could reproduce them. Scrupulously factual, Riccioli’s descriptions also contained the text of Galileo’s condemnation. In the words of Alfredo Dinis, “Riccioli enjoyed great prestige and great opposition, both in Italy and abroad, not only as a man of encyclopedic knowledge but also as someone who could understand and discuss all the relevant issues in cosmology, observational astronomy, and geography of the time.”

Athanasius Kircher

 Germany, 1602-1680

The German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher, S.J. is called the “Master of a Hundred Arts”, “Father of Geology” and “Father of Egyptology”. He has been compared to Roger Boscovich and Leonardo da Vinci for his enormous range of interests, . Modern scholar Alan Cutler called him “a giant among seventeenth-century scholars”, while scholar Edward W. Schmidt referred to him as “the last Renaissance man”.

Born the youngest of nine children in Geisa, Germany, he chose the Jesuits at age 15 because he wanted to learn. As a child, nearly died many times. He was swept under a mill wheel; accidentally pushed into the path of race horses and, as he entered novitiate, he contracted gangrene from an injury.  His gangrenous injury was discovered and declared incurable. Dying, Kircher heard of a nearby chapel with a statue of the Virgin Mary renowned for its miraculous healing powers. After fervent prayer, he retired to bed. Upon awakening, his legs, as well as a chronic hernia, had completely and miraculously healed.  The Thirty Years’ War broke out just as he graduated Jesuit College. Protestant troops forced the Jesuits to flee. While crossing the frozen Rhine, Kircher was swept downstream and nearly drowned. Refusing to conceal his Catholic priesthood as he crossed Protestant war zones, he was captured, stripped, beaten, and dragged by horse to a tree to be hung. A soldier, impressed by Kircher’s calm, prevented the lynching.

Kircher’s scientific work was impressive. He researched and compiled enormous amounts of data, invented innumerable optical, magnetic, and acoustic devices, including a magnetic clock and the megaphone. He composed music, poetry, and imaginative fiction, and collaborated with the great baroque sculptor Bernini in the restoration and erection of the obelisk and Fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Navona. He was among the first to study bioluminescence, recognizing that fireflies flickered to communicate. During the 1656 plague, Kircher spent days caring for the sick. He was one of the first to observe microorganisms under the microscope. In 1658, he proposed the germ theory of disease, arguing that microorganisms caused the plague. He thus anticipated Robert Hooke, Antoni Leeuwenhoek and Louis Pasteur. He proposed hygienic measures to prevent the spread of disease: isolation, quarantine, burning infected clothes and facemasks to prevent inhalation of germs.

Kircher learned more than 20 languages, and pioneered the study of Egyptian hieroglyphs. According to Joseph MacDonnell, it was “because of Kircher’s work that scientists knew what to look for when interpreting the Rosetta stone”. He considered Egypt — not Greece — the true source of Western learning. He correctly linked the ancient Egyptian and the Coptic languages, earning him the title “founder of Egyptology.” Kircher was also fascinated with Sinology and wrote an encyclopedia of China, in which he noted the early presence there of Nestorian Christians. He demonstrated the falsehood of the common belief that Roman and Greek alphabets often miraculously appeared in stone. By drying clay, he produced many “letters” — composed mostly of straight lines caused by simple cracking. He argued animals might have changed after the Flood by adapting to new environments. He noted volcanic mountains could release more molten lava than they contained, and realized they must tap activity deep underground. He knew volcanic could activity could both destroy and build mountains. Many of his ideas on vulcanism are still used. He was arguably the first to depict the Pacific “Ring of Fire” on a world map. In August 2012, in his honor, a team of Italian and American geologists dubbed a newly discovered mineral kircherite.

He essentially invented the public science museum. His collection of artifacts, displayed at the Kircherianum, was considered the best in the world. For most of his professional life, Kircher was one of the scientific stars of his world: according to historian Paula Findlen, he was “the first scholar with a global reputation”. He spread the results of his own experiments and the research he gleaned from his correspondence with over 760 scientists, physicians and fellow Jesuits in all parts of the globe. The Encyclopædia Britannica calls him a “one-man intellectual clearing house”. His works, illustrated to his orders, were extremely popular. He was the first scientist to be able to support himself through the sale of his books.

By the 1660’s, Kircher began to withdraw from high profile intellectual life. In part due to failing health, he retreated to the countryside around Rome where he set to researching Latium, a volume detailing the geography and history of the area. In 1661, Kircher discovered the ruins of a church said to have been constructed by Constantine on the site of the converstion of Roman general Saint Eustace, who saw a vision of Christ’s crucifixion in a stag’s horns. He raised money to pay for the church’s reconstruction as the Santuario della Mentorella. Upon his death, his heart was buried in the church.

Christopher Clavius


This German Jesuit mathematician and astronomer modified the proposal of the modern Gregorian calendar after the death of its primary author, Aloysius Lilius. Clavius would later write defences and an explanation of the reformed calendar, including an emphatic acknowledgement of Lilio’s work. In his last years he was the most respected astronomer in Europe. His textbooks were used to teach astronomy for over fifty years in and out of Europe.

Clavius joined the Jesuit order in 1555. He attended the University of Coimbra in Portugal.  Here, his success in mathematics, and his observation of the total solar eclipse of 1560 turned astronomy into his life’s work. He was ordained in 1564, while still pursuing theological studies, and became a full member in 1575. He began teaching math at the college 1564 and was on the faculty of the Collegio Romano until his death in 1612. Within the Jesuit order, Clavius was almost solely responsible for the adoption of a rigorous mathematics curriculum in an age where math was often ridiculed by philosophers as well as fellow Jesuits like Benito Pereira. In logic, Clavius’ Law (inferring of the truth of a proposition from the inconsistency of its negation) is named after him.
Because of his prodigious output of mathematical works, he was called “the Euclid of the sixteenth century.” Through his teaching and textbooks, and also through several mathematical curricula drafted by him, Clavius shaped mathematical education in the Jesuit order all over the world. In 1579 he was assigned to compute the basis for a reformed calendar that would stop the slow process in which the Church’s holidays were drifting relative to the seasons of the year. Using the Prussian Tables of Erasmus Reinhold and building on the work of Aloysius Lilius, he proposed a calendar reform that was adopted in 1582 in Catholic countries by order of Pope Gregory XIII and is now the calendar used worldwide. If you like the modern calendar, thank the Catholic Church.

Galileo was familiar with Clavius’s books, and he visited the famous man during his first trip to Rome in 1587. After that they corresponded from time to time about mathematical problems, and Clavius sent Galileo copies of his books as they appeared. In this last edition of his Sphere, Clavius mentioned the telescopic discoveries of Galileo briefly as follows:  “This instrument shows many more stars in the firmament than can be seen in any way without it, especially in the Pleiades, around the nebulas of Cancer and Orion, in the Milky Way, and other places . . . and when the Moon is a crescent or half full, it appears so remarkably fractured and rough that I cannot marvel enough that there is such unevenness in the lunar body. Consult the reliable little book by Galileo Galilei, printed at Venice in 1610 and called Sidereus Nuncius, which describes various observations of the stars first made by him.”

He used the decimal point in the goniometric tables (the art of constructing all possible sun-dials;) of his astrolabium in 1593, one of the first who used it this way in the West. As an astronomer Clavius held strictly to the geocentric model of the solar system, in which all the heavens rotate about the Earth. Though he opposed the heliocentric model of Copernicus, he recognized problems with the Ptolemaic model. He was treated with great respect by Galileo, who visited him in 1611 and discussed the new observations being made with the telescope; Clavius had by that time accepted the new discoveries as genuine, though he retained doubts about the reality of the mountains on the Moon. Clavius states among other things a method of dividing a measuring scale into subdivisions of any desired smallness, which is far more complete than that given by Nonius and must be considered the precursor of the measuring instrument named after Vernier, to which perhaps the name Clavius ought accordingly to be given. The chief merit of Clavius, however, lies in the profound exposition and masterly defence of the Gregorian calendar reform, the execution and ultimate success of which are due chiefly to him.  A large crater on the Moon is named for him.

Nicole Oresme

Philosopher, economist, mathematician, and physicist, one of the principal founders of modern science and one of the most original thinkers of the 14th century. By the age of 36,  he was grand master of the Collège de Navarre and  canon of Rouen. On 3 August 1377 he became Bishop of Lisieux.

In his mathematical work, Oresme developed the notion of incommensurate fractions, fractions that could not be expressed as powers of one another, and made probabilistic, statistical arguments as to their relative frequency. He argued that the movement of planets and stars were similarly incommensurate, and astrology was therefore a hoax.

In order to describe the motion of objects, Oresme invented the 3-D rectangular co-ordinate system. He proved this system equivalent to an algebraical relation in which the longitudes and latitudes of any three points combine: i.e., he gives the equation of the right line, and thus anticipated Descartes in the invention of analytical geometry.  Oresme’s mathematical demonstration of motion within this system is exactly the same as the system Galileo used in the seventeenth century. In fact, Oresme’s system was still being taught at Oxford by William Heytesbury and his followers, then, at Paris and in Italy, during Galileo’s lifetime. In the middle of the sixteenth century, long before Galileo, the Dominican Dominic Soto applied the law to the uniformly accelerated falling of heavy bodies and to the uniformly decreasing ascension of projectiles.
Oresme’s teachings on statics and dynamics follows the opinions advocated in Paris by his predecessor, Jean Buridan de Béthune, and his contemporary, Albert de Saxe. Oresme brilliantly argues against any proof of the Aristotelian theory of a stationary Earth and a rotating sphere of the fixed stars. The whole of his argument in favour of the earth’s rotational motion is both more explicit and much clearer than that given by Copernicus. Significantly, Oresme developed the first proof of the divergence of the harmonic series, something that was only replicated in later centuries by the Bernoulli brothers. He also worked on fractional powers, and the notion of probability over infinite sequences, ideas which would not be further developed for the next three and five centuries, respectively.

Oresme is generally considered the greatest  of medieval economists. He presented his economic ideas in De origine, natura, jure et mutationibus monetarum, the first comprehensive work upon money. Oresme argued that coinage belongs to the public, not to the prince, who has no right to arbitrarily change the content or weight of coins. His description of the destructive effects of debasing a nation’s currency clearly and incisively influenced Charles V’s monetary and tax policies. Oresme also pointed out that in a society in which two currencies with the same designation but of different value circulate, the money of lower value drives out the money of higher value. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) independently described this in his own commentary on the reform of the Prussian coinage, as did Thomas Gresham (1519–1597). Today it is called Gresham’s Law.

Francesco Maria Grimaldi

Swabia, Germany

Grimaldi was an Italian Jesuit priest, mathematician and physicist who taught at the Jesuit college in Bologna. Francesco Grimaldi was born into a well-off family. His father, Paride Grimaldi, was a silk merchant of noble birth. After the death of his first wife, he married Anna Cattani, who owned a chemist shop. Francesco was the fourth of his parents six sons, five of whom survived. Francesco and his brother Vincenzo both joined the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) on 18 March 1632.

Grimaldi was taught by Giovanni Battista Riccioli. By 1640, he was assisting Riccioli with experiments. Grimaldi and Riccioli calibrated a pendulum by getting it to swing for 24 hours (measured by the star Arcturus crossing the meridian line). They used this 3 foot pendulum to calibrate a shorter pendulum to use in timing. Then Grimaldi dropped balls of wood and of lead from various heights from the Asinelli tower. Accuracy was obtained by getting a group of musical monks to chant in time with the swinging pendulum. The experiment did not confirm Galileo’s result for the lead ball always hit the ground before the wooden one when they fell from the same height. The discrepancy between the experiment and Galileo’s claim that they reached the bottom simultaneously was so great, Grimaldi was forced to conclude Galileo knew, but hid the knowledge, since it contradicted Galileo’s own thesis.

In astronomy, Grimaldi built and used instruments to measure the height of clouds  as well as lunar mountains. He drew an accurate moon map, or selenograph, which was published by Riccioli and now adorns the entrance to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. 

He also experimented with light. Grimaldi admitted the sun’s light into a dark room through a small hole. He noticed the breadths of the shadows of slender objects, as needles and hairs, on a screen, were much greater than they would have been if the rays of light had passed by them in straight lines. Also, the circle of light formed on a screen by the rays passing through a very small hole in a plate of lead was greater than it would be if the rays simply diverged. He concluded the light rays changed direction as they passed near the edges of objects. He found that the shadow of a small body was surrounded by three coloured streaks or bands which became narrower as they receded from the centre of the shadow. Where the light was strong, he saw similar coloured bands within the shadow: there appeared to be two or more of these, the number increasing in proportion as the shadow was farther from the body. He coined the word ‘diffraction’ to describe the effect, thereby becoming the first man to describe “diffraction bands”. Later physicists used his work as evidence that light was a wave. Isaac Newton acknolwedged his debt to Grimaldi, saying that his first knowledge of light’s refraction came from Grimaldi’s work. Newton would use Grimaldi’s foundational work to arrive at his own, more comprehensive, theory of light. 

When two holes were used, Grimaldi received the cones of light on a screen beyond the place where they overlapped each other. He noticed where both rays fell,, the screen was more strongly enlightened that it would have been by one cone of light; but he was surprised to find the penumbral portions which overlaid one another were darker than the corresponding portions in which there was no overlay. He therefore proposed ‘A body actually enlightened may become obscure by adding new light to that which it has already received.’ A crater on the moon is named for him.

Bernard Bolzano

1781 – 1848

Bolzano graduated from the University of Prague as an ordained priest in 1805 and was immediately appointed professor of philosophy and religion at the university. Within a matter of years, however, Bolzano alienated many faculty and church leaders with his teachings of the social waste of militarism and war. He urged a total reform of the educational, social, and economic systems that would direct the nation’s interests toward peace rather than toward armed conflict between nations. Upon his refusal to recant his beliefs, Bolzano was dismissed from the university in 1819 and at that point devoted his energies to his writings on social, religious, philosophical, and mathematical matters.

Bolzano made several original contributions to mathematics. His overall philosophical stance was that, contrary to much of the prevailing mathematics of the era, it was better not to introduce intuitive ideas such as time and motion into mathematics. He was one of the earliest mathematicians to begin instilling rigor into mathematical analysis. His works presented a sample of a new way of developing analysis, whose ultimate goal would not be realized until some fifty years later when they came to the attention of Karl Weierstrass.

He introduced a fully rigorous ε–δ definition of a mathematical limit and was the first to recognize the greatest lower bound property of the real numbers. Bolzano’s notion of a limit was similar to the modern one: that a limit, rather than being a relation among infinitesimals, must instead be cast in terms of how the dependent variable approaches a definite quantity as the independent variable approaches some other definite quantity. Bolzano gave the first purely analytic proof of the fundamental theorem of algebra. He also gave the first purely analytic proof of the intermediate value theorem (also known as Bolzano’s theorem). Today he is remembered for the Bolzano–Weierstrass theorem, which Karl Weierstrass developed independently and published years after Bolzano’s first proof and which was initially called the Weierstrass theorem until Bolzano’s earlier work was rediscovered. He provided a more detailed proof for the binomial theorem and suggested the means of distinguishing between finite and infinite classes. He may have influenced Georg Cantor, who later developed set theory. Incidentally, Cantor believed his own ideas on infinite sets were divinely inspired. Cantor praised Bolzano for asserting that the actual infinite exists but criticized him for failing to provide either a concept of infinite number or the concept of “power” based on equipollence.

Bolzano emphasized the distinction between the objective relationship between logical consequences and our subjective recognition of these connections. For Bolzano, it was not enough that we merely have confirmation of natural or mathematical truths, but rather it was the proper role of the sciences (both pure and applied) to seek out justification in terms of the fundamental truths that may or may not appear to be obvious to our intuitions.

This makes understandable what could otherwise be seen as very strange for a theological textbook: Bolzano’s Textbook of the Science of Religion contains a section on mathematical probability theory. His choice of examples and his focus on certain methodological questions in can better be understood if one sees that they are theologically motivated. He used his scientific investigations into the discovery and credibility of testimonies and into the degree of credibility of a proposition with respect to testimonies in favor as well as those opposed as a basis for his theory of the divine revelation. The special treatment of proofs, “which are only to show that the probability of a proposition exceeds a given magnitude” is closely connected with the topic of miracles: Bolzano argued that in order to prove an event E is an unusual event and thus qualifies to be a miracle, one must demonstrate that the intrinsic probability of the assumption that E has not occurred is > ½ and therefore exceeds a certain magnitude.

Nicolaus Copernicus


Copernicus was a canon of Frombork Cathedral, with a doctorate in canon law and a degree in medicine. The title “canon” is conferred by a bishop, only upon priests outstanding in doctrine and liturgy. Clearly, Copernicus was well-regarded as a priest. His maternal uncle, Lucas Watzenrode, Bishop of Warmia, financially supported his astronomical work for Copernicus’ entire life. For Father Copernicus, church business, especially economics and diplomacy, was his life; astronomy was his hobby. But his astronomical skill was well-known. In 1514, the Fifth Lateran Council sought his opinion in the problem of calendar reform. This gave him occasion to publish his first heliocentric theories. Indeed, the Gregorian calendar reform of 1586, the calendar the Catholic Church invented and the entire Western world uses today, was based on heliocentric theory. These theories were so elegant that in 1533 they were presented in Rome to Pope Clement VII and several cardinals. On 1 November 1536, Archbishop of Capua Nicholas Schönberg wrote Father Copernicus a letter in which he strongly encouraged him to continue to develop these new cosmological theories and offered to help pay printing costs.

But, though Bishop Giese also urged him forward, Copernicus held off on publication. He rightly feared secular university professors, who held fast to Ptolemaic astronomy, would attack him. He was correct. When his work was presented at the University of Wittenburg, the secular professors were so hostile, they permitted only the trigonometry chapter to be printed. In stark contrast to the hostile universities, Bishop Giese was so interested in publishing the work, he hired George Rheticus, a Protestant pupil of Copernicus and a man whose father had been beheaded for sorcery, to edit Copernicus’ manuscript. Wittenberg’s secular professors were outraged. They silenced Rheticus by forcing him to give up his chair in mathematics. As a result, Rheticus was forced to give up the editing project, which he handed over to Reverend Osiander, also a Protestant. Osiander, aware that Luther and Melancthon hated heliocentrism even more than university professors did, tried to convince Copernicus to write a preface which called the theory a mere hypothesis. Copernicus not only refused, he instead wrote a wonderful preface dedicating the work to Pope Paul III.

But, Copernicus was now very ill. He relied on Osiander to get the manuscript ready for printing. Osiander secretly replaced Copernicus’ preface with his own unsigned preface, falsely claiming the contents of Copernicus’ book were hypothetical, not to be taken seriously. Copernicus, who only saw a bound copy of the work as he lay dying from a stroke, didn’t realize what had been done. Other astronomers knew. Johannes Kepler demonstrated the preface was a forgery created by Osiander out of fear of Protestant and professorial reaction. The war against Copernican heliocentrism was begun by university professors and Protestants, not the Catholic Church. Yet, today university professors invoke the man they persecuted as their mascot.

Eugenio Barsanti

Italy, 1821-1864

Eugenio Barsanti was a gifted mathematician and physicist, who together with Felice Matteucci, a hydraulic engineer from Florence, invented the first version of the internal combustion engine in 1853. Their patent request was granted in London on June 12, 1857, and published in London’s Morning Journal under the title “Specification of Eugene Barsanti and Felix Matteucci, Obtaining Motive Power by the Explosion of Gasses”.

Barsanti was born in Pietrasanta, Tuscany. Lean and short of stature, he studied in a Catholic scientific-oriented institute near Lucca, in Tuscany, and became a novitiate of the Piarist Fathers or Scolopi, in Florence in 1838. In 1841 Barsanti began teaching in the Collegio San Michele, situated in Volterra. Here, during a lecture describing the explosion of mixed hydrogen and air in a new electric pistol invented by Alessandro Volta, he realised the potential for using the energy of the expansion of combusting gases within a motor.

He soon transferred to Ximeniano Institute in Florence. where he met Matteucci, who was engaged in a land reclamation project in Florence. Matteucci appreciated the idea for the engine, and the two men worked together on it for the rest of their lives. Together, they succeeded in design and producing a number of the first type of gas engines to produce a vacuum within a closed cylinder, atmopsheric pressure then being utitlized to produce the power stroke. The principle was demonstrated in 1820, was used by Samuel Brown in 1827, and much later by N.A. Otto in 1867. On 13 May 1852, Barsanti and Matteucci received British Provisional Patent no. 1072. The patent was created in London, as Italian law at that time could not guarantee sufficient international protection. The first prototype was built in 1856 as a two-cylinder 5 HP motor. They petitioned for a second British patent (no. 1655), which was granted on 12 June 1857. On 30 December 1857, the State of Piemonte granted the directive (Patent) No. 579 and in close succession came the French patent dated 9 January 1858, No. 35009, and the Belgian patent dated 10 February 1858, No. 5533. By 1858, they had built a counter-working two-piston engine. A third engine was made in 1860 for the first National Exhibition in Florence, Italy, in 1861.

The main advantage of the Barsanti-Matteucci engine was the use of the return force of the piston due to the cooling of the gas. Other approaches based on the propulsive force of the explosion, like the one developed by France’s Etienne Lenoir, were slower. The Barsanti-Matteucci engine was five times more efficient, and won a silver medal from the Lombardy Institute of Science. It was intended to provide mechanical energy in factories and for naval propulsion. It was not light enough for use as an automotive engine. Barsanti and Matteucci selected the John Cockerill foundry in Seraing, Belgium to mass-produce a 4 hp (3.0 kW; 4.1 PS) engine. Before leaving for Belgium, Barsanti addressed His Holiness to ask for the ‘Apostolic Blessing’. Pope Pius IX had been schooled by the Scolopi in precisely the same Volterra school where, many years later, Barsanti had his first teaching assignment. Orders for the engine soon followed from many countries within Europe. Unfortunately, 48 hours before supervising mass production was to start at Cockerill in Seraing, Belgium, Barsanti fell ill with typhoid. He died shortly after, on 19 April 1864. Matteucci, himself very ill, gave up the enterprise and eventually returned to engineering.