• September 10, 2021

Famous Catholic Astronomers

 Famous Catholic Astronomers

Photo credit: Ian Noel Pace. Mdina Cathedral, Malta


This is not an exhaustive list but presents some of the most famous Catholic astronomers

Fr Nicholas Copernicus Fr Nicolaus Copernicus

Fr Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish Catholic priest who practiced medicine and then went into astronomy developing heliocentrism, meaning that the Sun is in the middle and that all planets, including Earth orbit in circles around it. He is believed to have entered the priesthood later in life. His contributions to astronomy revolutionised the field and the world. Read more

Fr Matteo RicciFr Matteo Ricci SJ (1552-1610)

Italian Fr Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit missionary to China who brought his mathematical and astronomical knowledge to China and adapted to Chinese culture. Read more

Famous Catholic AstronomersFr Giulio Alenio SJ (1582–1649)

Italian born Fr Giulio Alenio was a Jesuit theologian, astronomer and mathematician. He was sent to the Far East as a missionary and adopted a Chinese name and customs. He wrote 25 books, including a cosmography and a Life of Jesus in Chinese. Read more

Famous Catholic Astronomers Fr Giovanni Battista Zupi SJ (c. 1590–1650)

Italian born Fr Giovanni Battista Zupi was a Jesuit astronomer, mathematician and the first person to discover that the planet Mercury had orbital phases. The lunar crater Zupus is named after him. Read more

Fr Giovanni Battista RiccioliFr Giovanni Battista Riccioli SJ (1598–1671)

Fr Giovanni Battista Riccioli was a Jesuit astronomer who authored the book Almagestum novum, an influential encyclopedia of astronomy. He was the first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a freely falling body. He created a selenograph with Father Grimaldi who now adorns the entrance at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Read more

Famous Catholic AstronomersFr Giuseppe Asclepi SJ (1706–1776)

Fr Giuseppe Ascelpi was a Jesuit astronomer and physician who served as director of the Collegio Romano observatory. The lunar crater Asclepi is named after him. Read more

Fr Roger BoskovichFr Roger Boscovich SJ (1711-1787)

Fr Robert Boscovich from Croatia was a genius who studied many fields: atomic theory, optics, math, physics, architecture, and astronomy. Before being ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus, he published eight scientific dissertations in the field of astronomy and used geometry to calculate a planet’s orbit. A crater on the moon is named after him. As a whole, he was an incredibly learned man who stayed true to the Catholic faith and let it inform his scholastic endeavors. Read more

Fr Georges LemaîtreFr Georges Lemaître (1894–1966)

Belgian priest Fr Georges Lemaître was a contemporary scientist of, and based his work on Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. Lemaître first proposed what has since been named – at first pejoratively, but since compellingly – the “Big Bang Theory.” He claimed that all the matter in the universe had once been packed together in a solid ball, a “Primeval Atom”, and had expanded outwards from there. Read more

Fr George CoyneFr George Coyne SJ (1933-2020)

Fr George Coyne was an American Jesuit astronomer and promoter of science-theology dialogue. He led the Vatican Observatory as its director for 28 years. Research was an important part of Coyne’s astronomical legacy. His work included the study of the lunar surface that helped guide NASA as it planned the Ranger missions and the Apollo crewed missions to the moon. He also conducted research on Mercury’s surface, interacting binary star systems that give off sudden bursts of intense energy, and Seyfert galaxies, a group of spiral galaxies with small and unusually bright star-like centers. Read more

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