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.

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.


Fr. Roger Joseph Boscovich: Quantum Theory


boscovich 1

On 13 February 1787, Fr. Roger Joseph Boscovich, SJ (1711–1787) passed away in Milan, Italy. Educated at the Collegium Romanum (1740), he was a Croatian mathematician, physicist, astronomer, philosopher, theologian, poet, and diplomat. The Boscovich crater on the moon is named in his honor. His theory of atomic resonant modes in discrete quanta was influential in the development of modern QM theory.

Both Lord Kelvin in Lectures on Molecular Dynamics and the Theory of Light (1904) and J.J. Thomson in The Corpuscular Theory of Matter (1907) made reference to the atomic theory of Boscovich; these are full text books on

Fr. Boscovich in Lord Kelvin’s book (1904):
Fr. Boscovich in J.J. Thomson’s book (1907):

Around the time that J.J. Thomson had deduced the charge/mass ratio of the electron and outlined the +/- “plum pudding atomic model,” his lab was joined by Fr. Henry Vincent Gill, SJ (1872–1945), a Jesuit who had completed his masters of physics degree at the Catholic University of Louvain in the 1890s and took up residence at Cavendish Lab from 1906 to 1908. Quote: “The son of H.J. Gill, head of the publishing firm, M. H. Gill & Son, Henry was educated at Clongowes Wood College and University College Dublin. He possessed an acumen for mathematics and science and studied in Louvain and under Professor J.J. Thompson, Cavendish Laboratories, Cambridge (1906-1908). Fr. Gill had a special interest in seismography: ‘Experiments with Spinning Tops to Illustrate Earthquake Reactions’ was the title of a lecture given by Henry Gill at the Cavendish Laboratory, 16 June 1908.”

An article in the The Mathematics Teacher 61:2 (1968), pp. 167-175, argues how Fr. Gill’s later work on the history of science was foundational to the interpretation of Thomson’s early experiments. Specifically, Fr. Gill’s writings on the historical development of atomic theory and the work Fr. Roger Boscovich SJ, a book Fr. Gill asserted had exerted a definitive influence on the atomic view of matter as being composed of points in a vacuum, interacting via forces comparable to quantized modes (normal eigenmodes) of a compressible spring.

Another source states: “Therefore, bearing in mind that in the period 1903-1907 ‘J.J. Thomson deducted his hypothesis directly from the Theory and curve of Boscovich, and showed that the notion of ‘allowed’ and ‘forbidden’ orbits follows from it,’ Gill points out that Boscovich made an ‘essential element of the modern concept of the atom’ and ‘where Boscovich planted two hundred years ago others have reaped.’ Hence, Gill called this model ‘The Boscovich-Thomson’ atom and indicates that ‘when the history of atomic theory is being written, it is right that the part played by Father Roger Boscovich should not be overlooked.’”

Irish Jesuits Album. “Fr. Henry Gill S.J., M.C., D.S.O.” Acct:
Fitzpatrick, Mary M., and Antonietta Fitzpatrick. “Roger Joseph Boscovich Forerunner of Modern Atomic Theory.” The Mathematics Teacher (1968): 167-175.
Stoiljkovich, Dragoslav. Roger Boscovich: The Founder of Modern Science. Trans. Roger Anderton (Petnica, Serbia: Petnica Science Center, 2010), 4-4.


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


St. John of Kanty —Giving Impetus to the Concept of Momentum


cantius impetus theory

On 23 December is the feast day of St. John of Kanty (1390–1473). He was a priest, theologian, philosopher, and also a late-medieval physicist.

In physics, he expounded the theory of impetus (along with Jean Buridan (c.1295–1363), and others), which anticipated the concept of conserved momentum, of de Soto, Galileo and Newton.

Some sources on this important contribution to the history of physics:

“In physics, logic and ethics, Terminism (Nominalism) prevailed in Kraków under the dominant influence of Jean Buridan. Here Jan (John) Kanty expounded physics in the Terminist fashion, developing the new concept of ‘impetus’ …” (PNCC Press)

“Like momentum, impetus, once imparted to an object, will endure forever unless corrupted by an outside force… With an initial impetus, spheres would keep moving since there is no air resistance in the celestial realm.” (Dept of Physics – Vanderbilt(dot)edu)

“During the Middle Ages, there was much piece-meal criticism of Aristotle’s natural philosophy… In order to handle the problem of projectile motion, it was suggested that as they were hurled a certain degree of motive force was impressed on them. This impressed force or impetus kept them moving until it was used up in combatting the resistance of the medium.” (Dept of Physics – Indiana(dot)edu)

This depiction of the momenta of orbiting comets is found in the book: “Questiones et Decisiones Physicales Insignium Virorum.” Edited by George Lokert of Ayr (c. 1485–1547) (Paris: printed by Badius Ascensius for Conrard Resch, 1516)

— “PNCC Studies,” Volume 4. Polish National Catholic Church, Commission of History and Archives. (Scranton, PA: PNCC Press, 1983), 12.
“Impetus Theory.” Department of Physics: Astrophysics 203.
Koertge, Noretta. “Lecture VI: An Historical Case Study — Galileo and the Copernican Theory.” Department of Physics: X200: Introduction to Scientific Reasoning. 


Stanley L. Jaki – Science as a Pathway to God


Stanley L. Jaki was born in 1924 in Györ, Hungary. He entered the Benedictine Order in 1942. After completing his undergraduate training in philosophy, theology and RoadofScience200mathematics in 1947, he went to the Pontifical Institute of San Anselmo, Rome, where he received a doctorate in theology in December 1950. In 1948 he was ordained a priest. Dr. Jaki held the STD in systematic theology, Istituto Pontificio di S. Anselmo (Rome, 1950), a PhD in physics from Fordham University (1957), and several honorary doctorates. Dr. Jaki gave the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 1974-75 and 1975-76. The lectures were published as The Road of Science and the Ways of God. In 1987, he was awarded  the Templeton Prize for furthering understanding of science and religion. Jaki authored more than two dozen books on the relation between modern science and orthodox Christianity.

From 1951, Dr. Jaki taught systematic theology at the School of Theology of St Vincent College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania. During this time, he attended in the same college courses in American history, literature, mathematics and sciences to secure American recognition of his undergraduate training done in Hungary. He received his BS from St Vincent College in 1954. The same year, he began doctoral research in physics in the Graduate School of Fordham University, New York, under the mentorship of the late Dr. Victor F. Hess, the discoverer of cosmic rays and a Nobel-laureate. Dr. Jaki’s thesis was published in the June 1958 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research under the title, “A Study of the Distribution of Radon, Thoron, and Their Decay Products Above and Below the Ground.” Between 1958 and 1960 he did research in the history and philosophy of physics at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. From 1960 to 1962 he was Visiting Fellow in the Program for the History and Philosophy of Science at Princeton University. From 1962 to 1965 he wrote the important work, The Relevance of Physics (University of Chicago Press, 1966). From 1975 to his death, he was Distinguished University Professor at Seton Hall University, in South Orange, New Jersey. He held doctorates in theology and in physics and was a leading contributor to the philosophy of science and the history of science, particularly to their relationship to Christianity.

He was among the first to claim that Gödel’s incompleteness theorem is relevant for theories of everything (TOE) in theoretical physics. Gödel’s theorem states that any theory that includes certain basic facts of number theory and is computably enumerable will be either incomplete or inconsistent. Since any ‘theory of everything’ must be consistent, it also must be incomplete.

He died on 7 April 2009 in Madrid, Spain following a heart attack. He was in Spain visiting friends, on his way back to the United States after delivering lectures in Rome on Faith and Science at the Pontificio Ateneo Regina Apostolorum.


“Biography: Stanley L. Jaki.”  Gifford Lectures.
“Stanley L. Jaki.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.

Further recommended reading:
John J. Mulloy. “Fr. Stanley L. Jaki on Science as a Pathway to God.” Article from “The Dawson Newsletter.” Spring 1995. 
John Beaumont. “Does science disprove God? A great philosopher-priest showed that it couldn’t.” 20 April 2016.
Stacy A. Trasancos. “Fr. Stanley Jaki’s Definition of Science.” 8 April 2015.