Derek H. R. Barton: Establishing God as Truth


barton 2.pngOn 16 March 1998, Derek Harold Richard Barton (1918–1998) passed away in College Station, TX. Educated at Imperial College London (PhD, 1942), he was co-awarded the 1969 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Odd Hassel (1897–1981) “for their contributions to the development of the concept of conformation and its application in chemistry.” He was also known for the reactions named the Barton reaction, Barton decarboxylation, Barton–McCombie deoxygenation and Barton–Zard synthesis.

The book Cosmos, Bios, Theos (Open Court, 1992) provides some of Prof Barton’s thoughts on theology.

When scientists make numerous repeatable experiments or observations, they establish truth. Religion seldom wishes to make experiments and the truth that is accepted is often divine intervention of God in the affairs of man. However, what is written is written by man, with the liability of human frailty. The observations and experiments of science are so wonderful that the truth that they establish can surely be accepted as another manifestation of God. God shows himself by allowing man to establish truth …

“There is evidence that at one point in time the universe that we observe today was compressed into a point which exploded. Why not? But the matter of the universe had an infinite existence before this happened and will have an infinite future. God may well choose to redistribute matter and energy from time to time.”

“As I have already stated, God is Truth. But does God really have anything to do with man? Certainly I cannot believe that God accepts only one religion, or one sect, as the only group authorized to speak for man. I would believe that God accepts all, even those who pretend not to believe. Morality and religion interact and much beneficial human behavior results from this interaction.”

Margenau, Henry, and Roy Abraham Varghese. Cosmos, Bios, Theos: Scientists Reflect on Science, God, and the Origins of the Universe, Life, and Homo Sapiens. (Chicago and La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing, 1992), 145, 147.
Image modified from: ©


Arthur Holly Compton: We Need Faith & We Need Science


arthur holly compton1

On 15 March 1962, Arthur Holly Compton (1892–1962) passed away in Berkeley, CA. He was an American physicist who researched and taught at Wooster College, OH, University of Chicago, IL, Oak Ridge Laboratory, TN, the Hanford Engineering Center, WA, and Washington University in St. Louis, MO. He shared the 1927 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his discovery of the effect named after him” with Charles Thomson Rees Wilson (1869–1959) “for his method of making the paths of electrically charged particles visible by condensation of vapour.”

A devoted Christian from his youth, he wrote a number of articles about the shared ideas of science and religion:

—Compton, Arthur H. “Man’s Place in God’s World.” Mark Twain Quarterly (1937): 1-15.
—Compton, Arthur H. “We Need Faith.” The Phi Delta Kappan 28.4 (1946): 155-157.
—Compton, Arthur H. “God and the Atom.” American Magazine (1950).
—Compton, Arthur Holly. “Man’s Destiny in Eternity.” (1970).

His National Academy of Sciences biography made note that his family “believed deeply in the old saying ‘scientia et religio ex uno fonte,’” and a colleague at the University of Chicago said of him “Arthur Compton and God were daily companions.”

From the Chicago Daily News, April 12, 1936:


Alison, Samuel K. “Biographical Memoir: Arthur Holly Compton (1892-1962).” (Washington, DC: NAS Press, 1965), 81.
Rhodes, Richard. Making of the Atomic Bomb. (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2012), 363.
—Quoted in: White, Joe, and Nicholas Comninellis. Darwin’s Demise. (Green Forest, AZ: New Leaf Publishing, 2001), 174.
Images online: Commemorative stamp issued by the Republic of Guyana; RareNewspapers(dot)com

Stephen Hawking (1942–2018)



In memoriam of Stephen Hawking (8 January 1942 – 14 March 2018).

At a conference at the Vatican in October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI and Stephen Hawking met, where the pope described science as the pursuit of knowledge about God’s creation.

The Pope stated: “There is no opposition between faith’s understanding of creation and the evidence of the empirical sciences.” The church accepts evolution as scientific theory. Defending proponents of theistic evolution, who see no reason why God could not have used an evolutionary process in forming the human species, the pope stated: “To ‘evolve’ literally means ‘to unroll a scroll’, that is, to read a book. The imagery of nature as a book has its roots in Christianity and has been held dear by many scientists.”

At the conference, Hawking stated he was “not religious in the normal sense.” “I believe the universe is governed by the laws of science,” he said. “The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.”

In an interview with the Guardian in 2011, Hawking was asked by the interviewer: “Is our existence all down to luck?… So here we are. What should we do?” The physicist responded: “We should seek the greatest value of our action.” When asked: “…What, if anything, do you fear about death?” Hawking responded: “I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”

On Wednesday morning (14 March), the Pontifical Academy of Sciences tweeted:hawking tweet 1.jpg

Following up with several remembrances:

hawking tweet 2

“Address of his Holiness Benedict XVI to Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the Occasion of their Plenary Assembly.” Clementine Hall Friday. 31 October 2008. © Copyright 2008 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Persio, Sophia Lotto. “Did Stephen Hawking Believe in God? What the Physicist Said about About the Creation of the Universe.” Newsweek. 14 March 2018.


John Frederic Daniell: Creator’s Forces


john frederic daniel powerpoint image1

On 13 March 1845, John Frederic Daniell (1790–1845) passed away. From 1831-1834, he was the first professor of chemistry at King’s College London, and in 1835, he was appointed professor of chemistry at East India Company’s Military Seminary at Addiscombe, Surrey.

He was most known for his improved invention of the Voltaic cell, which was known as the Daniell cell. His other inventions included the dew-point hygrometer (humidity meter), a register pyrometer (surface temperature meter), and a manufacturing process devised by him for the manufacture of turpentine and resin for street lamp illumination.

A quote from Introduction to the Study of Chemical Philosophy (1839).

“There are several varieties of force all of which may either mediately or immediately be referred to the standard of our own exertions. Some of these cause masses of matter to approach, and others to recede from each other, retaining them in their second position against an opposing force; the former are classed together under the name of attraction, the latter under that of repulsion.

“The laws of these motions, and of the equilibrium of these forces, the intellect of man has been able to develope; but the origin of the forces themselves, though clearly perceived to be various, appears to be beyond his comprehension, even when that origin is in his own will. We cannot, at least, refer them to any secondary cause, and we must be content to know that they are powers conferred upon matter by the will of the Creator, for the maintenance of the order of His Creation.” (p. 13).

daniell cell

This book also includes a reference to the Jesuit scientist Fr. Roger Joseph Boscovich, SJ (1711–1787).

“With regard to its ultimate constitution, we cannot hope to attain to a clearer conception than that which presented itself to the comprehensive, but humble, mind of Newton; and that transcendent philosopher has thus embodied the result of his patient investigations: — ‘It seems probable to me that God, in the beginning, formed Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties, and in such proportion to space, as most conduced to the end for which He formed them; and that those primitive particles, being solids, are incomparably harder than any porous bodies compounded of them; even so very hard as never to wear or break in pieces; no ordinary power being able to divide what God himself made one in the first creation.’

“But this hypothesis, however convenient and consonant with our prejudices, is not absolutely necessary to the explanation of natural phenomena; for it may be conceived, according to the theory of Boscovich, that matter consists not of solid particles, but of mere mathematical centres of forces attractive and repulsive, whose relations to space were ordained, and whose actions are regulated and maintained by the Creator of the universe. Both hypotheses however agree in one great principle: viz., that the properties of bodies depend upon forces emanating from immovable points (whether substantial or not is of little importance) of their masses.” (p.7)

“John Frederic Daniell.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
—Daniell, J.F. An Introduction to the Study of Chemical Philosophy. (London, GB: John W. Parker, 1843), 13, 7,
Images: SlidePlayer; Alamay Stock Photo.


Joseph Fraunhofer: Ora et Labora



On 06 March 1787, Joseph Fraunhofer (1787–1826) was born in Straubing, Germany. Though orphaned at the age of 11, he was able to apprentice as a glassmakers Philipp Anton Weichelsberger and Georg von Reichenbach, where the undertook research on optical glasses and achromatic telescope lenses at the Institute at Benediktbeuern, a secularised Benedictine monastery. His work led to the discovery of the Fraunhofer lines, i.e. the absorption spectrum of solar rays.

More information on the Benedictine monastery.

“In order to construct his lenses, Fraunhofer drew upon the architectural space and layout of a secularized Benedictine monastery — an architecture that instantiated three elements critical to the Rule of Saint Benedict: labor, silence and secrecy. A study of Fraunhofer can, therefore, offer an insight into the more general relationships between the scientific enterprise and architectural space…

“Entrance to Fraunhofer’s laboratory (B in figure 3.10) was limited to those workers of Benediktbeuern who had optical expertise. The laboratory was built within the monks’ cells, which were designed to reflect the importance of silence in the Rule of St. Benedict. Although it was therefore private, visiting opticians and experimental natural philosophers were taken there so Fraunhofer could demonstrate to them his technique of calibrating achromatic lenses. By showing visitors how he used the dark lines of the spectrum in producing achromatic lenses, rather than how the lenses were actually constructed, Fraunhofer ensured his institute’s optical hegemony.”

According the The Catholic Encyclopedia (1909):

“As a Christian, Fraunhofer was faithful and observant even in details. The simple inscription on his tomb reads: ‘Approximaverit sidera’ [He will have drawn near the stars]. His important memoirs were first published in ‘Denkschriften’ of the Royal Bavarian Academy of Sciences, the one on refraction, spectra, and lines in 1817, and that on diffraction and its laws in 1821.”

Jackson, Myles W. Spectrum of Belief: Joseph von Fraunhofer and the Craft of Precision Optics. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 77,80.
Fox, William. “Joseph von Fraunhofer.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. (New York, NY: Robert Appleton Company, 1909).
Images: “Joseph von Fraunhofer” by Rudolf Wimmer (1849–1915), Deutsches Museum, Berlin;  Book cover:


Ira Remsen: Faith in Natural Laws & Faith in Scientific Doctrines

ira remsen.jpg

Photo: Ira Remsen (1846–1927), left, with Constantin Fahlberg (1850–1910).  Exhibit at the National Museum of American History, Washington, DC.

On 04 March 1927, Ira Remsen (1846–1927) passed away in Carmel, CA. He was an American chemist who served as the first president of Johns Hopkins University. After completing his education at Columbia University (MD, 1867) and University of Göttingen (PhD, 1870), he discovered the artificial sweetener saccharin (C₇H₅NO₃S) while working with a graduate student, Constantin Fahlberg (1850–1910). Many years later, he was awarded the 1923 Priestley Medal for this research.

His National Academy of Sciences biography notes that: “In his boyhood Remsen was reared in a very strict, religious atmosphere and he retained a simple religious faith throughout his life.” An interesting story recounts an event which inspired his vocational path in chemistry:

“While reading a text-book of chemistry I came upon the statement, ‘nitric acid acts upon copper’ … Having nitric acid and copper, I had only to learn what the words ‘acts upon’ meant. Then the statement, ‘nitric acid acts upon copper’ would be something more than mere words. All was still. In the interest of knowledge, I was even willing to sacrifice one of the few copper cents then in my possession. I put one of them on the table; opened the bottle marked ‘nitric acid’; poured some of the liquid on the copper; and prepared to take an observation. But what was this wonderful thing I beheld ? The cent was already changed, and it was no small change either. A greenish blue liquid foamed and fumed over the cent and over the table. The air in the neighborhood of the performance became colored dark red. A great colored cloud arose… Taking everything into consideration, that was the most impressive experiment, and, relatively, probably the most costly I have ever performed. I tell it even now with interest. It was a revelation to me. It resulted in a desire on my part to learn more about that kind of action. Plainly the only way to learn about it was to see its results, to experiment, to work in a laboratory.’”

In 1902, Prof. Remsen was appointed the president of the American Chemical Society. The following is an excerpt from his ACS presidential address, Washington, DC (20 Dec 1902):

“The first great generalization that was reached after the method of weighing was generally adopted by chemists was what we sometimes call the law of the indestructibility of matter, or, in more refined language, the law of the conservation of mass. Then followed the laws of definite and multiple proportions. Now a law of nature is quite a different thing from a doctrine. A law once discovered does not wither and die. It is eternal. Such a statement cannot be proved to be true. It calls for faith, but faith is called for at every turn in scientific matters as well as in spiritual. Without it progress would be impossible. As I am trying to deal with doctrines and not with laws, let me say that doctrines call for even a larger faith than laws. The very essence of a doctrine is ‘faith in things unseen’. The discovery of the laws of definite and multiple proportions led to the thought of atoms— not the evasive atoms of the Greeks, but atoms that could in a way, be made the subject of experiment — the Daltonian atoms…

“ … J.J. Thomson gives me faith in the thoughts suggested by him. As I understand, it the worst that can be done for chemistry by the corpuscle is to change the atom so slowly that it would take something like a million years to enable us to detect the change by the balance. Perhaps the atomic weights of the elements, or of some of them, are undergoing change. Whether in the course of geological ages the atoms are becoming simpler or more complex is a question that appears idle at first, and yet when we bear in mind the fact that the atoms of our day have already been subjected to a great variety of influences for ages past, and that the atoms that we know are comparatively complex, we may at least suspect that the tendency so far is towards complexity.”

As an educator, he would author eight textbooks and laboratory manuals, several of which exerted an important influence on chemistry education in the following decades. He also founded the American Chemical Journal, which he edited for 35 years. Additionally, he was known for his “lectures on the history of chemistry… In these lectures Remsen proved himself to be a philosopher as well as a scientist.” In response to his teaching and research, it has been said: “Much had been accomplished by a few gifted men in America before Remsen’s day, but he opened up a life work in chemistry as a career to many, and developed a spirit of research that spread over the country.”

Noyes, William Albert, and James Flack Norris. “Biographical Memoir of Ira Remsen (1846-1927).” (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences Press, 1931), 207-209.
Remsen, Ira. “The Life History of a Doctrine.” Journal of the American Chemical Society 25.2 (1903): 115-132.
Image: National Museum of American History, Washington, DC.


Charles Herbert Best: Collaborative Effort


charles herbert best.jpg

On 27 February 1899, Charles Herbert Best (1899–1978) was born in West Pembroke, ME. He was an American-Canadian biologist who is considered one of the co-discoverers of insulin.

Prof. Best was made a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1955, the first Canadian to receive this honor.

“Charles Herbert Best had a sense of humour. He was awarded membership in the Papal Academy of Sciences. The parchment accompanying the gold medallion stated that henceforth Charles Herbert Best should be addressed ‘Your Excellency’ and he often quipped at home that he should be addressed by his full title. When giving lectures and talks to audiences which included a number of Roman Catholics he would say that the Holy Father, the Pope, was getting good advice on matters such as birth control from the nephew of an Anglican Bishop and the son-in-law of a Presbyterian Minister.

As a graduate student of Frederick Banting (1891–1941) at the University of Toronto, Best had read several papers by Oskar Minkowski (1858–1931), which inspired their own research isolating and characterizing insulin. Another historian also notes the importance of seeing this discovery as having been “done by members of a team”, which “depended on the conjoint efforts of several investigators” and which was a “collaborative investigation among diverse groups.”

Persson, Sheryl. Smallpox, Syphilis and Salvation: Medical Breakthroughs that Changed the World. (Wollombi, AU: Exisle Publishing, 2010), 210.
Ben-Menahem, Ari. Historical Encyclopedia of Natural and Mathematical Sciences. Vol. 1. (New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media, 2009), 2973.
Bliss, Michael. The Discovery of Insulin. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 198. Image: Frederick Banting (1891–1941) and Charles Herbert Best (1899–1978) in the Lab. (Posted at Pinterest(dot)com).