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Exhibit Highlights

burns library

The Jesuits: Culture, Learning, and the Arts. 1540-1773

Original Exhibit Spring 1997

The subject of this exhibit is the contribution of the Society of Jesus to various branches of knowledge during the early modern period.

Christopher Clavius (1538-1612) was the first Jesuit to gain a European-wide reputation as a mathematician and astronomer. He was born in Bamberg, Germany and educated at various Jesuit colleges in Spain and Italy, but most of his teaching career was spent at the Collegio Romano. Clavius helped to reform the Church calendar and assisted in the drafting of the Ratio studiorum. For his efforts in geometry he became known as the "Euclid of the sixteenth century." The Burns holds a copy of Clavius' In sphaeram Ioannis de Sacro Bosco.

The image at left is from Athanasius Kircher's Ars magna lucis et umbrae in decem libros digesta, published in Rome in 1646. Kircher (1602-1690) was a German Jesuit who joined the Society at the age of seventeen. He taught various subjects in Germany, France, and Italy. Kircher eventually focused much of his attention on physics and archeology. He is known especially for his construction of mirrors and projectors, as well as his interpretation of hieroglyphics found in ancient ruins. In addition to the Ars magna, the Burns holds ten other works of Kircher.

Pictures and text concerning works other than those owned by the Burns Library are also a part of this exhibit. One example is the photo at left of the title page from Roger Boscovich's Theoria philosophia naturalis. The career and publications of Boscovich (1711-1787) represent the revival of Jesuit science in the eighteenth century. After 1730 the Jesuits adopted curriculum reforms which in part led to new scientific achievements by members of the Society. Boscovich was the most prolific author, with more than one hundred publications. The Theoria, which sought to explain the physical and chemical properties of matter, is his most important work.

For Further Study: The Burns Library houses an extensive collection of books and other materials relating to the Society of Jesus. Contact a library staff member for details.

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