|With their dozens of universities and colleges, the Jesuits held a monopoly over higher education in Catholic Germany in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Using rich yet previously untapped sources, Marcus Hellyer traces the development of science instruction at these institutions over a period stretching from the Counter-Reformation to the height of the Enlightenment. He argues that the Scientific Revolution was not an all-or-nothing affair; Jesuit professors enthusiastically adopted particular elements, such as experimental natural philosophy, while doggedly rejecting others, such as mechanical theories of matter. Hellyer’s examination of the Jesuit colleges over a span of two centuries, from the late sixteenth century to 1773, demonstrates that digesting the New Science was a lengthy process. Jesuit colleges were still actively confronting, rejecting, or absorbing crucial components of the Scientific Revolution when the Society was suppressed in 1773. |
Catholic Physics also explores the fascinating interaction between Jesuit natural philosophy and theology, which, though marked by constant tension, was also quite fruitful. For example, this study reveals that censorship of natural philosophy by the Jesuit hierarchy in Rome was a negotiated process in which Jesuit professors accepted the necessity of censorship, yet constantly sought to circumvent regulations imposed on them by teaching controversial topics such as Copernican cosmology. After the Galileo affair, Jesuit physics professors made sure they declared that heliocentrism was wrong, but they also taught their students the advantages it held over the rival cosmology sanctioned by the Catholic Church.
By investigating the neglected yet influential Jesuit colleges of early modern Germany, Hellyer brings new sources and insight to the field of history of science. His pioneering book will be welcomed not only by historians but by those engaged in the important and ongoing debate between science and religion.
"This well-written and thoroughly researched work, the only recent one of its kind in English, provides a sympathetic but judicious account of the institutions and activities of Jesuit natural philosophers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Catholic Physics contains a great deal of useful information on Jesuit teaching and doctrine, much of which contradicts the more or less conventional wisdom on these matters. Any historian of natural philosophy working in this period will take from it fruitful lessons on the diversity of the development and dissemination of scientific knowledge." —Dennis Des Chene, Washington University
"Marcus Hellyer has done a truly extraordinary amount of careful and reliable research. This book is historical scholarship in its best sense." —Richard Blackwell, St. Louis University