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:

Claude Bernard: Common Ground for the Metaphysician, Scholastic & Experimentalist?


claude bernard

On 10 February 1878, Claude Bernard (1813–1878) passed away in Paris, France. Educated at University of Paris (MD, 1839), he was a French physiologist whose discoveries included: 1) that secretions of the pancreatic gland were involved in digestion; 2) the enzymatic function of the liver was to form ‘glycogen’ from blood glucose; and 3) the role of the vaso-motor system to regulate blood vessel dilation and contraction. During these researches, he also studied heat regulation in the body and invented the term “milieu intérieur,” now known as “homeostasis.”

A recent book notes: “Upon his death on February 10, 1878, Bernard received a state funeral – the first French scientist to be so honored. The procession ended at Pere Lachaise cemetery, and Gustave Flaubert described it later with a touch of irony as ‘religious and very beautiful.’ Bernard was an agnostic.” (J.G. Simmons, 2000)

Another article reports that, after his education at the Jesuit school of Villefranche, quote:

“he drifted into what would have been simple materialism only for the saving grace of his own utter sanity, his active imagination, and the unconscious influence of early training. During his most successful years of scientific investigation, wrapped up in his experiments and their suggestions, Bernard was drawn far away from the spiritual side of things. This partial view of man and nature could not endure, however. In an article on Bernard in the Revue des Questions scientifiques for April 1880, Father G. Hahn S.J., says of him: ‘A man of such uprightness of character could not be allowed to persist to the end in this restless scepticism. His mental condition was really a kind of vertigo caused by the depths of nature that he saw all around him. At the threshold of eternity he came back to his true self and his good sense triumphed. The great physiologist died a true Christian.’”

From an 1865 book by Claude Bernard.

“Man is by nature metaphysical and proud… Hence it follows that the experimental method is by no means primitive or natural to man, and that only after lengthy wanderings in theological and scholastic discussion has he recognized at last the sterility of his efforts in this direction…Yet for all that, the method of work of the human mind is not changed at bottom. The metaphysician, the scholastic, and the experimenter all work with an a priori idea. The difference is that the scholastic imposes his idea as an absolute truth which he has found, and from which he then deduces consequences by logic alone. The more modest experimenter, on the other hand, states an idea as a question, as an interpretative, more or less probable anticipation of nature, from which he logically deduces consequences which, moment by moment, he confronts with reality by means of experiment. He advanced, thus, from partial to more general truths, but without ever daring to assert that he has grasped the absolute truth.”

Simmons, John G. Doctors and Discoveries: Lives That Created Today’s Medicine. (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2000), 17.
Walsh, James J. “Claude Bernard: The Physiologist.” The Catholic World. Vol. LXXI, No. 424 (July, 1900), 525.
Bernard, Claude. An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine. Trans. H.C. Greene. (New York, NY: Henry Schuman, 1865), 27. Full text at: Book cover:


Oliver Heaviside: Justification of Faith



On 03 February 1925, Oliver Heaviside (1850–1925) passed away in Torquay, England. A significant physicist and mathematician, he is known for his re-formulation of Maxwell’s field equations in terms of electric and magnetic forces and energy flux, work adapting complex analysis to electrodynamics and a formulation of vector analysis.

Regarding Maxwell’s equations, one historian of physics notes (T. Bearden): “Maxwell’s vector equations taught in university are actually Heaviside’s truncated equations, and are only a simplified version of what Maxwell originally wrote…Maxwell’s original theory is 20 equations in 20 unknowns. The theory was later truncated by Maxwell himself on the insistence of his editor, and then particularly by Heaviside, Gibbs, and Hertz after Maxwell’s death.”

His text Electromagnetic Theory (originally published 1912) includes an interesting use of the Reformation-era theological concept of “justification by works.”

“The justification of faith is by work, for the process works. If it failed, then we should have to find some other way.”

…Perhaps this might give new meaning to the popular physics meme interpreting Genesis 1:

“And God said … ∯ E da = Q/εₒ; ∯ Bda = 0; ∮Eds = d/dt∯Bda; ∮Bds = μₒ∯Jda + εₒ,μₒ d/dt∮Eds … and there was light.”

“Maxwell-Heaviside theory of electrodynamics.” Tom Bearden Website.
Heaviside, Oliver. Electromagnetic Theory, Volume 3. (New York, NY: Cosimo Books, 2008), 219. Image: © OliverHeaviside(dot)com.


George Gabriel Stokes: Evolution a Mode of God’s Creation


George Gabriel Stokes (13 August 1819 – 01 February 1903) was born in Skreen, Ireland and educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge University. He was a mathematician and physicist. Stokes’ theorem in vector calculus (∯ ∇×U⋅da = ∮U⋅ds) is due to him. He also contributed other results to fluid dynamics and optics, including the first use of the Reynolds number for fluid viscosity (Reynolds number Re =uL/ν, Stokes flow: F = 6πμau = γu).

Though he married in St Patrick’s Cathedral at Armagh, Ireland, in the Catholic Archdiocese of Armagh, he was known to be have belonged to an Anglican family. While serving as vice-president of the British and Foreign Bible Society, he was involved in doctrinal debates about missionary societies. He was also the president of the Victoria Institute (created in 1865 to explore the relationship between religion and science) from 1886 to 1903.

His Memoirs included a philosophical interpretation of Darwin’s theory, making an important distinction between a cause of existence and a mode of existence. Letter of Sir George Gabriel Stokes, to Arthur H. Tabrum, 4 January 1901, Cambridgeshire.

“[E]volution is not a cause, but the description of a process … Can we in any way explain the origin of species? Are we to suppose that each species, or what we regard as a species, originated in the fiat of an almighty power? Or are we to suppose that we are to go indefinitely backwards, and affirm that a chain of secondary causation is to be continued indefinitely backwards? … The treatment of evolution as a cause, capable of leading us on indefinitely, tends to shut out the idea of a First Cause; its treatment as a possible mode of sequence, leading us a step or two onwards, still leaves the mind directed towards a First Cause, though ‘Clouds and darkness are round about Him.’ [cf. Psalm 97] … Remember, Evolution does not mean a cause.”

It is generally acknowledged the papers Stokes wrote on mathematical topics were deeply related to his physical experiments. Stokes argued mathematics was and always would be secondary to physical experimentation in terms of developing scientific knowledge. While math could help describe and formalize our observations he claimed it alone could not prove anything about the various phenomena we observe. As part of his experimental drive, Stokes helped to set up the Cavendish laboratory in the mid 1880s. The lab aimed at directing more of Cambridge’s bright young minds to experimental issues in physics rather than solely pure mathematics. The laboratory started in 1884 was first run by J. J. Thomson (who went on to develop a theory of atomic structure with Ernest Rutherford).

Stokes was often considered the authority on questions of optics in particular the functioning of the eye and the refraction of light waves in the eye’s structures. Yet he never ended up writing a final treatise on the subject though his colleagues long expected one from him. His personal friend and lifelong colleague Sir William Thomson or Lord Kelvin lamented that Stokes’s various administrative duties had taken up too much of his time.

In the early 1840s he calculated the maximum height of various massive waves in the ocean; in 1849 he wrote two papers on variable gravitation on the Earth’s surface which is said to have reformed the science of geodesy. While it was known that the force of gravity differed depending on where a person was on Earth,  Stokes claimed that this was not dependent upon the interior composition of the Earth which had been assumed to be the case up until then.

He was married to Mary Robinson, the daughter of Dr. Romney Robinson, astronomer of Armagh. They had five children, two of whom died in childhood. He spent his final years living with his daughter Isabella Lucy who wrote a laudatory memoir of her father following his death. Stokes died on 1 February 1903 and was buried four days later in Mill Road cemetery Cambridge.

– Larmor, Joseph, and Sir George Gabriel Stokes. Memoir and Scientific Correspondence of the Late Sir George Gabriel Stokes. (Cambridge, UK: University Press, 1907), 90.
– Josipa Petrunic, The Griffold Lecturers: George Gabriel Stokes, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge


James Clerk Maxwell: Light in Nature and in Faith


The Scotch physicist James Clerk Maxwell FRS FRSE (13 June 1831 in Edinburgh – 5 November 1879 in Cambridge) was one of the chief figures among 19th century physicists. His most notable achievement was formulating the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as manifestations of the same phenomenon.  Maxwell’s equation for electromagnetism have been called the “second great unification in physics” after the first equations by Isaac Newton. He saw great significance in a universe where the laws of nature fit together like pieces in a puzzle. In those links, he saw the existence and goodness of God and the mystery of the divine.

His Christian faith permeated his scientific work and, according to his own testimony, was at times a source of inspiration. One of his prayers was:

“Almighty God, Who hast created man in Thine own image, and made him a living soul that he might seek after Thee, and have dominion over Thy creatures, teach us to study the works of Thy hands, that we may subdue the earth to our use, and strengthen the reason for Thy service; so to receive Thy blessed Word, that we may believe in Him Whom Thou hast sent, to give us the knowledge of salvation and the remission of our sins. All of which we ask in the name of the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.”

He favored a world-view which includes ideas like the ones in the modern chaos theory such as ‘sensitive dependence to initial conditions‘. In his 1873 lecture on determinism and free will, he says:

“The subject of the essay is the relation to determinism, not of theology, metaphysics, or mathematics, but of physical science,—the science which depends for its material on the observation and measurement of visible things, but which aims at the development of doctrines whose consistency with each other shall be apparent to our reason…


Maxwell can be seen, together with Poincaré, as a forerummer of Lorenz’ Butterfly effect (1963) . Image credit

“For example, the rock loosed by frost and balanced on a singular point of the mountain-side, the little spark which kindles the great forest, the little word which sets the world a fighting, the little scruple which prevents a man from doing his will, the little spore which blights all the potatoes, the little gemmule which makes us philosophers or idiots. Every existence above a certain rank has its singular points: the higher the rank the more of them. At these points, influences whose physical magnitude is too small to be taken account of by a finite being, may produce results of the greatest importance. All great results produced by human endeavor depend on taking advantage of these singular states when they occur.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

“The man of tact says ‘the right word at the right time,’ and, ‘a word spoken in due season how good is it!’ The man of no tact is like vinegar upon nitre when he sings his songs to a heavy heart. The ill-timed admonition hardens the heart, and the good resolution, taken when it is sure to be broken, becomes macadamised into pavement for the abyss.

“It appears then that in our own nature there are more singular points,—where prediction, except from absolutely perfect data, and guided by the omniscience of contingency, becomes impossible,—than there are in any lower organisation. But singular points are by their very nature isolated, and form no appreciable fraction of the continuous course of our existence. Hence predictions of human conduct may be made in many cases. First, with respect to those who have no character at all, especially when considered in crowds, after the statistical method. Second with respect to individuals of confirmed character, with respect to actions of the kind for which their character is confirmed.”

JCM_Memorial_Stone-1 (1).jpg

As a child, Maxwell had attended both Church of Scotland (his father’s denomination) and Episcopalian (his mother’s denomination) services.  In April 1853, he underwent an evangelical reversion to Christianity.

Maxwell is buried at Parton Kirk, in Galloway (near Castle Douglas where he grew up), and his memorial reads:

“His short life was rich in distinguished contributions to every branch of physical science – heat, light, mechanics, above all, by unifying the theories of electricity and magnetism he established a sure foundation for modern physics, electrical engineering and astronomy and prepared the way for radio communication and television. A good man, full of humour and wisdom. He lived in this area and is buried in the ruins of the old Kirk in this Churchyard.”



Gregor Mendel – the Father of Genetics


Gregor Mendel

On 6 January 1884, Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) passed away in Brno, Czech Republic.

The title “Father of Genetics” can be attributed to Gregor Mendel in two capacities: he laid the groundwork for the new discipline of Genetics and he was an ordained priest and Augustinian monk – therefore, he was called “Father”, like all priests.

Gregor Johann Mendel was born in Hyncice, Moravia on 20 July 1822 in what is now the Czech Republic. The only son of a peasant farmer, Mendel attended local schools and the Philosophic Institute at Olomouc. In 1843, he entered the Augustinian Order at St. Thomas Monastery in Brno (German: Brünn) and began his theological studies at the Brünn Theological College. He was ordained to the priesthood on 6 August 1847.

The Augustinians had been established in Moravia since 1350, and St. Thomas Monastery was a center of creative interest in the sciences and culture. Its members included well-known philosophers, a musicologist, mathematicians, mineralogists and botanists who were heavily engaged in scientific research and teaching. The library contained precious manuscripts and incunabula, as well as textbooks dealing with problems in the natural sciences. The monastery also held a mineralogical collection, an experimental botanical garden and a herbarium. It was in this atmosphere, Mendel later wrote, that his preference for the natural sciences was developed.

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