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).


Glenn T. Seaborg: Unified Force of Scientific and Religious Teaching


On 25 February 1999, Glenn Theodore Seaborg (1912–1999) passed away in Lafayette, CA.

With Edwin M. McMillan (1907–1991), he was co-awarded the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for their discoveries in the chemistry of the transuranium elements.” These elements discovered included plutonium (94), americium (95), curium (96), berkelium (97), californium (98), einsteinium (99), fermium (100), mendelevium (101), nobelium (102) and seaborgium (106). Prof. Seaborg is also credited with having discovered over 100 isotopes of different atoms.

A prolific researcher, he was the author of over 500 journal articles and numerous books. As Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission in Germantown, Maryland, he made a habit of making daily hikes through the nearby trails, of which one was later re-named in his honor the “Glenn Seaborg Trail” by the American Hiking Association.

The following is an excerpt of a speech, “Science, Technology, and the Citizen” (1969):

We would like to conclude on the broader note of the relationship of science and technology to man. Over the next few decades — before the end of this century — the human race will have to face and resolve challenges that may well determine the shape of its life for centuries to come, if not its very survival. There is no doubt that many of these challenges are a result of the rapid growth and cumulative effect of science and technology. There is also no doubt that they are bringing into direct confrontation what many men have tried to separate — fact and value. One aspect of this is that science and morality have been brought face to face. But what we believe will result from this confrontation, albeit after the period of anxiety and agony we seem to have entered, will ultimately be a united force to raise men to a new level of rationality and humanity.

“In short, all moral laws, all the religious teachings, all the poetic and philosophical writings that have exhorted us to recognize the brotherhood of man, that have urged us to understand and respect nature, to act justly and humanely toward our fellowman — all these are being made physical imperatives by the power of ‘neutral’, ‘amoral’ science. What I have been asked to speak on today— Science, Technology and the Citizen— is a subject that goes to the heart of this matter of human survival and progress because in a sense it is now the rate at which men can increase, assimilate and wisely apply knowledge that will determine our success or failure. If it seemed true before, today it is almost an absolute truth that ‘Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe’.”

“Glenn T. Seaborg.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
Seaborg, Glenn T. “Science, Technology, and the Citizen.” Vital Speeches of the Day (5 Oct 1969): 5.
Image: Time Magazine Cover (19 Nov 1961), artwork by Boris Chaliapin (1904–1979), © Time Warner.

Billy Graham on Faith and Science


Billy Graham, known as “America’s pastor”, passed away on 21 February 2018. Here at Science meets Faith, we share two of his testimonies on the interaction between faith and science.

The first comes from his book Billy Graham: Personal Thoughts of a Public Man (1997):

“I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren’t meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. … whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.

The second is a TEDtalk from 1998 titled “Technology, faith and human shortcomings” (February 1998):

“…How do we change man, so that he doesn’t lie and cheat and our newspapers are not filled with stories of fraud in business, or labor, or athletics, or wherever? The Bible says the problem is within us, within our hearts and our soul. Our problem is that we are separated from our Creator, which we call God… we need to have our souls restored…

“The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was not a religious man, but he said: ‘It’s in our hearts that the evil lies, and it’s from our hearts that it must be plucked out.’ Albert Einsteinmade this statement: ‘It’s easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.’ ….

“You’ve seen people take beneficial technological advances, such as the internet we’ve heard about tonight, and twist them into something corrupting. You’ve seen brilliant people devise computer viruses that bring down whole systems. The Oklahoma City bombing was simple technology, horribly used. The problem is not technology, the problem is the person or persons using it. King David said he ‘knew the depths of his own soul.’ … Yet King David sought God’s forgiveness and he said: ‘You can restore my soul.’ You see the Bible teaches that we’re more than a body and a mind, we are a soul. And there’s something inside of us that is beyond our understanding. That’s the part of us that yearns for God, or something more than we find in technology.”

Video source and transcript online.

Rittenhouse Orrery: In God We Live and Move and Have Our Being



David Rittenhouse (1732–1796) was best known as the first Director of U.S. Mint (1792—1795). However, he was also an astronomer, a mathematician and an inventor, who built very intricate “orreries” (scale models of the solar system).

From an Oration he delivered February 24, 1775, before the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA:

“Our religion teaches us what philosophy could not have taught; and we ought to admire with reverence the great things it has pleased divine Providence to perform, beyond the ordinary course of Nature, for man, who is undoubtedly the most noble inhabitant of this globe. But neither religion nor philosophy forbids us to believe that infinite wisdom and power…

“Nothing can better demonstrate the immediate presence of the Deity in every part of space, whether vacant or occupied by matter than astronomy does. It was from an astronomer [i.e. Epimenides of Knossos, 7th-6th century, Cretica/Κρητικά] St. Paul quoted that exalted expression, so often since repeated; ‘In God we live, and move, and have our being.’ His divine energy supports that universal substratum on which all corporal substances subsist, that the laws of motion are derived from, and that wings light with angelic swiftness.”

For the St. Paul reference to Epimenides of Knossos, see:, or

— Barton, William. Memoirs of the Life of David Rittenhouse: Late President of the American Philosophical Society. (Philadelphia, PA: Parker, 1813), 565, 569.
Image online: “Rittenhouse Orrery” at the University of Pennsylvania,

Jethro Tull: Agriculture and the Seeds of Creation



On 21 February 1741, Jethro Tull (1674–1741) passed away in Berkshire, England.

In the early 1700s, he became known for inventing the horse drawn seed drill & planter, helping to initiate the British Agricultural Revolution. His methods were adopted by large landowners, and their agricultural and technological methods established the basis of modern farm practices. According to some histories, his technological innovation was in part inspired by the practices of vine-dressers of the south of Europe, where he traveled for a medical visit in the late 1690s. Later in life, Tull also invented the mechanized horse-drawn hoe.

His publication A Treatise on the Principles of Tillage and Vegetation (1st edition, 1731) had included a few paragraphs of theological reflections.

“The first rudiments of animals and plants being organical, can be the work of none but the infinite Creator, though they are augmented and produced by the secretions, &c. of the aliment.

“But the opposers of this doctrine make no distinction between creation and production; nor seem they to have any notion of infinite division, or infinite smallness; if they had, they would not make the objections they do against the creation of all animals or plants at once contained within one another.

“Neither is the multitude of animalcules (microscopic animals) that are lost any objection; for if the Creator had not known it necessary there should be an overplus of them, he would not have made them so numerous.”

He was buried in the churchyard of St Bartholomew’s Church, Lower Basildon, Berkshire, where he had been baptised.

“Jethro Tull (agriculturalist).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
Tull, Jethro. A Treatise on the Principles of Tillage and Vegetation. (London, GB: John M. Corbett, 1822), 289.
Image: Posted at Intriguing History(dot)com.

Nicolaus Copernicus: Conversations among the ‘Heliocentrists’



On 19 February 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) was born in Toruń, Poland. He was an astronomer known for his heliocentric model of planetary motion.

From historian Edward B. Davis:

“At the time, Roman Catholic officials recognized that the calendar that had been in use since the time of Julius Caesar was increasingly out of step with the stars. Copernicus was known to be working on a new theory of celestial motion, according to which the earth revolves around a stationary sun, and the church wanted him to participate in conversations about fixing the calendar. Copernicus, however, preferred to work quietly on his own.

For many years he ignored the pleas of at least one cardinal and two bishops to publish his ideas, until finally a young Lutheran astronomer from the University of Wittenberg, Georg Joachim Rheticus, came for an extended visit and was able to persuade Copernicus to allow his book to be printed back in Germany. Contrary to what is often said or implied, Copernicus had full freedom to pursue his ideas while working for the church and was even encouraged to publish them…

“A handful of biblical texts appear to speak of the earth as immobile, or of the sun as in motion. Why should anyone seek to alter interpretations that only agreed with the best science of the day? Although Martin Luther had dismissed heliocentrism as a foolish idea that contradicted the account of Joshua’s long day in the Bible, his disciple Philip Melanchthon revered mathematical astronomy: in his view, neither the perfection of the heavens nor the certainty of mathematics had been adversely affected by the Fall. Melanchthon also considered the earth’s motion unbiblical, but he encouraged the teaching of Copernican theory as a false but useful hypothesis at Lutheran universities. Thus, a young Johannes Kepler learned about it from astronomer Michael Maestlin at Tübingen, where he was preparing to be a theologian.

“Kepler liked the Copernican view partly because he believed that the three parts of the heliocentric universe constituted an image of the Trinity – the central sun with its emanating light representing God the Father, the starry sphere God the Son, and the intermediate space God the Holy Spirit. As he realized, the opponents of heliocentrism had to be persuaded that it did not contradict the Bible. In the preface to his most important book, Astronomia nova (1609), Kepler argued that, in order to be widely understood, the Bible is written in the ordinary language of the common person and not in the technical language of the astronomer. Therefore, the Bible should not be read as a scientifically accurate text or used to refute an astronomical theory….”

Edward B. Davis, “Christianity and Science in Historical Perspective.”
Image: Painting (1873) entitled “Astronom Kopernik, czyli rozmowa z Bogiem” (“Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God”) by Jan Matejko (1838–1893).

Johannes Stöffler: Reformational Astrology and the Gregorian Calendar


On 16 February 1531, Johannes Stöffler (1452–1531) passed away in Tübingen, Germany. Educated at the Blaubeuren Monastery school and at the University of Ingolstadt, he was a German instrument-builder, astrologer, mathematician, and priest. His published works included Almanach (1499), Elucidatio fabricae ususque astrolabii (1512), Astrolabiumsschrift (1513), Tabulae astronomicae (1514), Calendarium Romanum magnum (1518), Ephemeriden (1531), Commentary on the Sphaera of pseudo-Proclus (posthumous, 1534). He was buried in Collegiate Church (Stiftskirche) in Tübingen.

From the compendium Geographers: Biobibliographical Studies (Ed. T.W. Freeman, 2015):

“[D]uring his work as a clergyman, even with his additional duties later as the dean of the national chapter of Ehingen, he used well, true to his status as a private scholar, to undertake intensive mathematical studies and research. He performed astronomical observations of his own and calculated, on the basis of Ptolemy’s world conception, the daily planetary constellations including the sun and the moon, for a period of over thirty years in advance (1499–1531); in his own workshop he made several celestial globes, in all probability one terrestrial globe, and also sundials and excellent mechanical astronomical clocks. By these feats he achieved, in the course of approximately twenty years, the qualifications of a major authority in the mathematical/astronomical field.

“Stöffler saw himself primarily as a Christian astrologer… His astrological researches led him to turn away from ancient traditions and brought him to a view of the reality, indeed the validity, of his own standpoint. Stöffler went beyond astrology to become a mathematical astronomer. By patient calculations he uncovered the reasons for the mistakes of the ancient Church that caused the controversy about Easter. Though anxious to avoid conflict with ecclesiastical authorities, he developed principles for a new determination of the date of Easter. When in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII finally accomplished the overdue reformation of the calendar, Stöffler’s research was a decisive influence on all essential points. Stöffler’s geography can be understood, to a great extent, in the light of astrology. Since the latter, besides depending on the celestial movements, also requires the knowledge of longitudinal/temporal differentials he could not avoid dealing with the determination of geographical coordinates by astronomical measurement… In principle, like Ptolemy, he contended that it was the mission of geographia to portray the world as far as it is inhabited or known.

“Stöffler remained linked to the classical world concept, in all scientific ideas and, as an eminent astronomer, astrologer and geographer, he accomplished a great deal, though of a nature (as least in geography) that still glorified Antiquity, in spite of considerable corrections and critical comments. Nevertheless he promoted (mainly through his students) the development of geography to a level that would not have been possible without his efforts… By his outlook on the Maker’s works in Creation, he had probably personally endowed Melanchthon with the natural piety that later became the germ of the latter’s own theologically (in effect Lutheran) orientated geography.

“When Stöffler’s influence as a geographer, with the fading concept of the geocentric world concept, declined, even though his accomplishments in geography, astrology and calendar-making were still appreciated, he disappeared from the memory of the geographical world … As one of the leading geographers of his era, this unassuming scientist from Tübingen is still waiting for a more just appreciation of his merits.

—Hoheisel, Karl. “Johannes Stöffler (1452–1531).” in Geographers: Biobibliographical Studies. Vol. 12. Ed. Thomas Walter Freeman. (London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015), 123-124; 125-126.
Images: Deutsche FotothekHimmelsglobus by Johannes Stöffler (1493); Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart.