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Exhibit Highlights

burns library

Astronomy, Geology, Physics and Mathematics: Some Special Collections Holdings in the Sciences

Original Exhibit Winter 2003

"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. I do both. What I do as a scientist is no different from what I do listening to the cosmic word of God."
Rev. James Skehan, S.J., quoted in "A Man of Science and Faith." Boston College Chronicle, Feb. 1, 2001: 1.

The exhibit features selected scientific holdings from the John J. Burns Library. Books, artifacts, and documents were chosen from the library's Rare Book, Manuscripts and University Archives collections. Specifically, the exhibit emphasizes the scientific achievements of Pasquale Sconzo, Rev. Daniel Linehan, S.J. and Rev. James Skehan, S.J. It also displays several important scientific works from the Library's Jesuitana and Rare Books collections. The exhibit also highlights the role of Devlin Hall as Boston College's first building dedicated to study of science.

The papers and books of Pasquale Sconzo were acquired by the Burns Library in the Spring of 2002. Included in the collection is a first edition printing of Galileo Galilei's Istoria e Dimostrazioni Intorno alle Macchie Solari e Loro Accidenti (History and Demonstrations Concerning Sunspots and their Properties). The book is the Boston College Library's "Two Millionth Volume."

Pasquale Sconzo (1908-1994). Italian mathematician, and astronomer. Sconzo was a pioneering scientist who combined the use of mathematical theory and advanced computer techniques to predict the orbital paths of celestial bodies. He was part of the team of scientists working for NASA who developed the mathematical calculations needed to calculate the successful docking manuevers of orbiting spacecraft. Here is a photograph of Sconzo when he served as the Senior Astronomer at IBM's Federal Space Systems Division in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Rev. Daniel Linehan, S.J. (1904-1987). Jesuit priest, scholar, scientist and explorer, Father Linehan was one of the most fascinating individuals ever to be associated with Boston College. He became a seismologist at the Weston Geophysical Observatory beginning in 1934 and later led the Observatory to national prominence during his tenure as director from 1950-1972. Linehan is considered to be the "father" of the Observatory. He also founded Boston College's Department of Geophysics in 1949. A renowned explorer, he was a key participant in several expeditions to both the Arctic and Antarctic. Here is a 1955 photograph of Linehan with his seismic equipment in the Antarctic.

Rev. James Skehan, S.J. Jesuit priest, scholar and scientist, Father Skehan founded the Geology Department at Boston College in 1958 and served as director of the Weston Observatory from 1973-1993. He is now Director Emeritus of the Weston Observatory and Professor Emeritus of Geology. In 2003, geologist Mark McMenamin, of Mount Holyoke College, honored Skehan for his many contributions to the study of New England Geology by naming a 500,000,000 year-old trilobite genus "Skehanos." The dorsal surface of Skehanos Quadrangylaus is pictured here.

Photo credit: Mark A.S. McMenamin, Mount Holyoke College.

Devlin Hall. Originally known as the Science Building, Devlin Hall was the third structure built by Boston College on the new Chestnut Hill campus, and the university's first building devoted to the teaching of sciences. The groundbreaking ceremony occurred on March 16, 1922 and the building opened for classes in the fall of 1924. Here President William Devlin, S.J. shovels the first concrete into the foundation of the Science Building, which later was named for him.

For Further Study: More information on holdings of the Burns Library is available at the library's website. Researchers may also contact library staff with specific questions.

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