Burns Library Hosting Exhibition on the Sciences

Burns Library Hosting Exhibition on the Sciences

Weston Observatory Director Emeritus James Skehan, SJ, who has traveled the Earth studying its ancient rock ribs, and said the first Mass on the volcanic isle of Surtsey not long after it rose from the North Atlantic, once was asked how he balanced science and faith.

"If you look at a beautiful sunset, or how mountains are formed, or observe how continents move, you can view it either as science or as God speaking to you, or both," he replied. "I do both. What I do as a scientist is no different from what I do listening to the cosmic word of God."

Fr. Skehan's quote captures the theme of the current winter exhibition at Burns Library that highlights Special Collections' holdings in the sciences. "Astronomy, Geology, Physics and Mathematics: Some Special Collections Holdings in the Sciences" runs at the Burns through March.

From the chalice used by Jesuit explorer Rev. Daniel Linehan, SJ, in offering the first Mass at the South Pole, to early pictures of Devlin Hall, Boston College's original science building, its spire topped by ball and cross emblematic of science and faith, the exhibits reflect a complementary relationship between research and religion.

"This is the most ambitious exhibition on the sciences we've done at the library," said Burns Librarian Robert O'Neill. "It's particularly appropriate because of the rich Jesuit tradition in the sciences.

"There's something that will appeal to everyone here," O'Neill said.

One eye-catching photo from 1955 shows Fr. Linehan (1904-87) in the Antarctic surrounded by a mob of penguins. The legacy of the late Jesuit seismologist and polar explorer, who founded the geophysics program at Boston College and from 1950-72 was pioneering director of Weston Observatory, is a focus of the exhibition.

Weston colleague Fr. Skehan, who founded the geology program at BC and was honored for a lifetime's contribution to earth science by having a fossil trilobite named for him, also is spotlighted.

So is the late NASA mathematician and astronomer Pasquale Sconzo (1908-94), whose papers, donated to Burns Library, include a rare first-edition by Galileo on sunspots [see article on page 5].

A selection of noteworthy scientific works from the Burns' Jesuitana and Rare Books collections and a display on the history of Devlin Hall round out the exhibition.

More information is available on the Web at www.bc.edu/libraries/centers/burns/exhibits/highlights/s-sconzoexhib/. -Mark Sullivan  

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