Robert R. Wilson: Faith to Build A Cathedral


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On 16 January 2000, Prof. Robert Rathbun Wilson (1914–2000) passed away in Ithaca, NY. He was a significant figure in the establishment of Fermilab in DuPage, Illinois.

After completing his PhD with E.O. Lawrence, with a dissertation “Theory of the Cyclotron” (1940), he joined Cornell University where he and his colleagues built four electron synchrotrons. Wilson was made the director of the National Accelerator Laboratory in 1967, subsequently known as the Fermilab, for which he oversaw its construction, completing the facility on time and under budget.

The building named Wilson Hall at Fermilab was designed to resemble a medieval French cathedral, Beauvais Cathedral (A.D. 1225-1568). This is his recollection: Wilson, Robert R. “Starting Fermilab.” Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, Illinois. Published 1992.

12552611_1037368019667682_5067069699540962251_n“To decide how high the ‘Lab’ building ought to be, I went up in a helicopter and had the pilot hover at various altitudes as I plotted an ‘aesthetic factor’ as a function of height. The curve rose sharply to about 75 ft where it began to flatten as the Fox River Valley came into view. The sky, the sunsets, the Illinois landscape, all looked better at the higher levels, as it had from the tenth floor of the Oak Brook office building. I concluded that the building should be at least 200 ft tall, and taller if possible (it turned out to be 250 ft).

“Years earlier, I had been delightfully involved with the question of height while driving from Paris, France, to see Chartres Cathedral. As you go along, at first you see it, then you don’t, then it seems to flirt with you, and finally bursts out in all its radiant splendor. Perhaps it was hubris to hope for a similar effect on approaching Fermilab. Ultimately, it was not Chartres, but Beauvais Cathedral that was to have a closer resemblance to the Central Lab.”

In an interview with American Institute of Physics, Prof. Wilson discussed the religious aspects of his upbringing in Big Piney, Wyoming:

“[Robert R. Wilson]: ‘In Big Piney there was no church. Eventually there was one for all of the religions, which took turns in having their services there. But men considered church to be just for women. The men, in the tradition of the mountain men, had no religion and considered it a womanly thing. So, exposed to men, then, I was not religious; exposed to my grandmother, I was deeply religious. Sort of a yin and a yang, as it were. Manliness was identified with independence and freedom — we made a great deal of that — not working for wages, all those cliches.’

“[Interviewer]: ‘So you perhaps had a religion inside but not so much the external observances?’

“[Wilson]: ‘Yes. On the other hand there was the feminine part that is received from ones mother. My mother was not particularly religious but my grandmother was deeply religious.’ ”


Wilson, Robert R. “Starting Fermilab.” Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, Illinois. Published 1992.

“AIP Interview of Robert R. Wilson by Spencer Weart.” 19 May 1977. Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA.



Relationship between Science and Faith: the ‘conflict-myth’


There is a popular conception that the historical relationship between science and religion has been one of conflict or even all-out warfare. Historians of science call this commonly held notion the “conflict thesis.” In this video, historians of science Lawrence Principe and Edward Davis examine the historical roots and social context of the origin of the conflict thesis. Principe and Davis explain that the beginning of the conflict thesis can be traced primarily to the popular works of two 19th century Americans: John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White. Principe and Davis evaluate Draper and White’s conflict thesis to show that the language of warfare falls far short of historical reality. Nevertheless, the popularity of these two works and the global influence of Draper and White’s thesis has ensured a lasting legacy that still informs our current understanding of how science and religion typically relate.

Carl David Anderson: Harmonies of the Creator’s Symphony


On 11 January 1991, Prof. Carl David Anderson (1905–1991) passed away in San Marino, California. He shared the 1936 Nobel Prize with Dr. Victor Hess of Fordham University for their discovery of the positron, a particle with the same mass as an electron, though with a positive charge, which initiated the field of anti-matter physics.

A newspaper reported the discovery as follows:

carl david anderson 123

He was married to Lorraine Bergman in 1946, at a ceremony at a Seventh Day Adventist Church in Santa Barbara, CA, a day which he later stated was “the most important event in my life.”

A remembrance by his daughter-in-law, Melanie Marie Anderson, recalled:

512OC2MPS+L._SX362_BO1,204,203,200_“Carl Anderson was a remarkable man. Not only was he one of the great scientists of our time, he was also sensitive, caring, and extraordinarily humble…

“He viewed science with the same reverence and awe as he did when he experienced the beauty of nature in his climb to one of the world’s highest mountain peaks or when he looked into the eyes of his newborn grandchildren for the first time. To him, the elegance of science and the beauty of life blended into a harmonious symphony that was composed by our great Creator. He was always in tune with his world around him, yet he had a gift of being able to sense and understand our world and its complexities as many of us are unable to. He was able to journey into his mind and travel into the unseen worlds of cosmic rays and particle physics to unravel some of the greatest mysteries of our universe. I feel blessed to have known this man… I will forever view our world a little differently now. I leave with you a thought that I was inspired to write as a tribute to my dear father-in-law who always said to me, ‘take time to reflect…’ Science is the silent, unseen splendor behind the forces of nature and in turn, nature responds to its silent partner with the gift of life and the wondrous beauties of our world.”


—Davis, Watson. “Particle of Matter Christened ‘Positron’.” The Catalina Islander. March 1, 1933, p. 8: 
—Anderson, Carl D. “The Discovery of Anti-matter: The Autobiography of Carl David Anderson, the Youngest Man to Win the Nobel Prize.” Ed. Richard J. Weiss (River Edge, NJ: World Scientific, 1999), 128-129; preface x.


Carl Linnaeus: Blessed by the Natural Sciences


Picture: Carolus Linnaeus by Hendrik Hollander (1853) depicts Linnaeus in the traditional dress of the Sami people of Lapland, holding the twinflower (Linnaea borealis) that became his personal emblem.

On 10 January 1778, Carl Linnaeus (Carl von Linné) (1707–1778) died in Uppsala (Sweden). He was a Swedish naturalist and zoologist. Animated by an intense religious faith, he established the first systematic classification of all animals, plants, and minerals (divided into kingdoms, classes, orders, genera, and species), convinced it was a task entrusted to man by God. His classification of man among the quadrupeds created a lively controversy at the time.

Linnaeus later dropped the term quadrupeds and introduced “mammalia” for two main reasons: “Homo Sapiens” can better fit into this classification, and – as John Ray (1627–1705), the great English naturalist, had first pointed out – whales, porpoises, and manatees shared key features with quadrupeds (red blood, a heart with two ventricles, and lungs) but did not have four feet.

Quote from the book: Garden Flowers of the Year (1847):

“Every day now adds to the charms of the meadow land. ‘Blessed be the Lord for the beauty of summer and spring, for the air, the water, the verdure, and the song of birds.’ This was the exclamation of Linnæus; and who, in looking on the April mead, is not ready to respond, ‘Blessed be God for the green earth’?”

Quote: “Garden Flowers of the Year. ”(London, GB: Religious Tract Society, 1847), 45.

Original text: von Linné, Carl . Lachesis Lapponica, Or, a Tour in Lapland. Trans James E. Smith. (London, GB:  Linnæan Society, 1811), 244.


Melvin Calvin: Modern Science Stands on Foundation of Monotheism


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On 08 January 1997, Melvin Calvin (1911–1997) passed away in Berkeley, CA. The 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to him “for his research on the carbon dioxide assimilation in plants.” These reactions, sometimes known as the Calvin–Benson–Bassham Cycle, are the Light-independent reactions, and consist of three steps: (1) carbon fixation, (2) reduction reactions, and (3) ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate (RuBP) regeneration.

Quoted from his book “Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life” (1969)
—“The fundamental conviction that the universe is ordered is the first and strongest tenet. As I try to discern the origin of that conviction, I seem to find it in a basic notion discovered 2000 or 3000 years ago, and enunciated first in the Western world by the ancient Hebrews: namely that the universe is governed by a single God, and is not the product of the whims of many gods, each governing his own province according to his own laws. This monotheistic view seems to be the historical foundation for modern science.”

Source: Henry, Carl Ferdinand Howard, D. A. Carson, and John D. Woodbridge, eds. “God and Culture: Essays in Honor of Carl FH Henry.” (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub Co, 1993), 283. 

François Jacquier: Faithful Interpreter of the Science of Isaac Newton



On 3 July 1788, François Jacquier (1711–1788) passed away in Rome, Italy. He was a French Franciscan priest, mathematician and philosopher. As chair of experimental physics at the Pontifical Roman College, he was known for his commentary and illustrated edition of Isaac Newton’s (1642–1726/27) “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.”

From the Catholic Encyclopedia (1910):
“His early education was entrusted to an ecclesiastic, who soon recognized in him an inclination to science and mathematics, and endeavoured to cultivate it. When sixteen years old, François, entered the Order of Friars Minor, and after profession was sent to Rome, to complete his studies in the French convent of the order, La Trinité du Mont. With the permission of his superiors he specialized in mathematics, and at the same time, as a sort of mental diversion, devoted himself to the study of the ancient languages… The King of Sardinia named him professor of physics at the University of Turin in 1745, but Cardinal Valenti, prime minister of Benedict XIV, eager to retain so learned a man in Rome, had him assigned to the chair of experimental physics at the Roman College. Here he was in continual demand for consultation upon scientific matters. In 1763 he was appointed instructor in physics and mathematics to the young Prince Ferdinand at Parma. He was appointed in 1773 to the chair of mathematics at the Roman College, on the occasion of the suppression of the Jesuits. At his death he was connected with nearly all the great scientific and literary societies of Europe.


“The most important of his works are: ‘Isaaci Newtoni philosophiæ naturalis principia mathematica, perpetuis commentariis illustrata’ (4 parts in 3 vols. 4to, Feneva, 1739-42), in collaboration with P. Lesuer); ‘Parere e riflessioni sopra I danni della cuppola di San-Pietro’ (4to, Rome, 1743); ‘Elementi di perspecttiva secondo I princpi di Taylor’ (8 vo, Rome, 1745); ‘Institutiones Philosophicæ ad studia theologica potissimum accommodata’ (6 vols. in 12 mo, Rome, 1757), reprinted many times at Rome, Venice, and in Germany, and later translated into Spanish; ‘Eléments du calcul intégral’ (4to, Parma, 1768), a work highly esteemed and more complete than any that had been published up to that time.”



—Tivnan, Edward. “François Jacquier.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. (New York, NY: Robert Appleton Company, 1910).


Jeremiah Horrocks: Ardent Love of Science & of God


jeremiah horrocks

On 03 January 1641, Jeremiah Horrocks (1618–1641) passed away in Lancashire, England. He was an astronomer known for his demonstration of the moon’s elliptical orbit and his observation of the transit of Venus of 1639.

A recent book review: “The story of the first observation of a transit of Venus has established itself as one of the most engaging in the history of astronomy. A young, unknown, self-taught astronomer, living in the north of England, far from any university, was a cosmological, not just a mathematical, Copernican, and, rarer still, a Keplerian enthusiast for elliptical orbits. Having computed, with only some 2 weeks to spare, a transit of Venus on November 14, 1639, Jeremiah Horrocks shared his prediction with his friend William Crabtree, with the idea that they should both separately attempt the observation. Thus only two men had seen a transit of Venus until the next occurrence in 1761, when, as is well known, many expeditions were mounted and many observers followed their example. It has only enhanced the allure of Horrock’s story that he died at the age of only 22, little more than a year after his remarkable achievement.”

From his memorial sermon: “The Astronomer and the Christian is the title of a Sermon in memory of Jeremiah Horrocks by Rev Hugh McNeile DD… Horrocks was a wonderful young man, the pioneer of Sir Isaac Newton; and, had he lived, perhaps the Newtonian system would have been completed in his hands. He was an illustrious instance of the ardent love of science associated with the intenser love of God. Dr McNeile has paid a just and beautiful tribute to his memory. The sermon was preached at Preston, when the parish church of Hoole in that neighbourhood was reopened, after being enlarged and decorated as a memorial to its former curate, the humble Jeremiah Horrocks, whom Sir John Herschel calls the pride and boast of British astronomy. A tablet, erected by the contributions of the clergy, bears the following inscription. If the reader would know more we refer him to the sermon, where he will find a very interesting sketch of the life of this the most eminent astronomer of the seventeenth century.”

Bennett, Jim. “Jeremiah Horrocks, Venus Seen on the Sun: The First Observation of a Transit of Venus by Jeremiah Horrocks.” Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science V.3,N.2 (Fall 2013): 375-376.
“The Christian Observer.” Volume 59. (London, Hatchard & Co., 1860), 61.