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John Baptist Riccioli, S.J.
(1598 to 167I)

and his long-lived selenograph

Grimaldi's selenograph published by John Baptist Riccioli, S.J.

John Baptist Riccioli was born in Ferrara and died in Bologna. He wrote many books on scientific as well as theological matters. His lunar map stands at the entrance to the lunar exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute. It is described in detail in the Philosophical Transactions of the royal Society. It is the first map to name craters and mountains after scientists and prominent people instead of abstract concepts. It was meticulously drawn by another Jesuit, Francesco Maria Grimaldi and was published in Riccioli'sAlmagestum Novum (Bologna, 1651. Riccioli's chapter concerning the moon contains two large maps (28 cm in diameter), one of which shows for the first time the effects of librations and introduces new lunar nomenclature. Almost all of his nomenclature for lunar objects are still in use today.

Jesuit astronomers in Rome such as Riccioli were able to gather information from their former Jesuit pupils in China and India concerning lunar and solar eclipses as well as transits of Venus. This information enabled Riccioli to compose a table of 2,700 selenographical objects, incomparably more accurate than anything previously known.

Riccioli went beyond the preliminary work of Galileo and succeeded in perfecting the pendulum as an instrument to measure time, thereby laying the groundwork for a number of important later applications. He also made many significant astronomical measurements in an effort to expand and refine existing data. He made measurements, for example, to determine the radius of the earth and to establish the ratio of water to land on its surface. His recourse to a geometrical treatment of these problems is noteworthy.

Riccioli also made a number of significant astronomical measurements in an effort to expand and refine existing data. To this end he made measurements to determine the radius of the earth and to establish the ratio of water to land. His recourse to a mathematical treatment of these problems is noteworthy. Riccioli described sunspots, compiled star catalogues, and recorded his observation of a double star; he also noted the colored bands parallel to the equator of Jupiter and made observations of Saturn that, if he had had better instruments, might have led him to recognize its rings.

As a geographer, Riccioli set out to compose a single great treatise that would embrace all the geographical knowledge of his time. Although he did not complete this task he published tables of latitude and longitude for a great number of separate localities, in which he corrected previous data and prepared the way for further developments in cartography.


Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu ( AHSI ) Rome: Institutum Historicum
Bangert, William A History of the Society of Jesus. St. Louis: St. Louis Institute, 1972uis, 1810
Boyer, Carl A history of mathematics. New York: Wiley, 1968
Gillispie, Charles. C. ed., Dictionary of Scientific biography. 16 vols. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1970
{Reference to him in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography is found in v 1 p483, v 3 p100 v 4 p166, v 5 p527, 542-3, v 6 p364, v 7 p326, v 8 p26, v 10 p53, v 11 p 411.}
Oldenburg, Henry ed. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. vols. 1-30. London: 1665-1715
{Articles by him or concerning his work are found in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London in v 1 p 394-396, v 1 p 120-123, v 1 p 263-28, v 2 p 693-698, v 5 p 2023, v 6 p 3061-3063, v 8 p 6033-6036, v 9 p 219-222, v 11 p 611, v 13 p 244-258, v 14 p 721-726, v 16 p 314-323.}
Reilly, Conor "A catalogue of Jesuitica in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London" in A.H.S.I. vol. 27,1958, p. 339-362
Sarton, GeorgeThe study of the history of mathematics. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard, 1936
Sommervogel, Carolus Bibliothèque de la compagnie de Jésus. 12 volumes. Bruxelles: Société Belge de Libraire, 1890-1960
{20 entries are found in Sommervogel; some examples are the following:
Almagestum Novum Astronomicum (Bologna, 1651)
De Nova Cometa ( Bologna, 1664)

Adventures of Some Early Jesuit Scientists

José de Acosta, S.J. - 1600: Pioneer of the Geophysical Sciences
François De Aguilon, S.J. - 1617: and his Six books on Optics
Roger Joseph Boscovich, S.J. - 1787: and his atomic theory
Christopher Clavius, S.J. - 1612: and his Gregorian Calendar
Honoré Fabri, S.J. - 1688: and his post-calculus geometry
Francesco M. Grimaldi, S.J. - 1663: and his diffraction of light
Paul Guldin, S.J. - 1643: applications of Guldin's Rule
Maximilian Hell, S.J. - 1792: and his Mesmerizing encounters
Athanasius Kircher, S.J. - 1680: The Master of a Hundred Arts
Francesco Lana-Terzi, S.J. - 1687: The Father of Aeronautics
Francis Line, S.J. - 1654: the hunted and elusive clock maker
Juan Molina, S.J. - 1829: The First Scientist of Chile
Jerôme Nadal, S.J. -1580: perspective art and composition of place
Ignace Pardies, S.J. - 1673: and his influence on Newton
Andrea Pozzo, S.J. - 1709: and his perspective geometry
Vincent Riccati, S.J. - 1775: and his hyperbolic functions
Matteo Ricci, S.J. - 1610: who brought scientific innovations to China
John Baptist Riccioli, S.J. - 167I: and his long-lived selenograph
Girolamo Saccheri, S.J. - 1733: and his solution to Euclid's blemish
Theorems of Saccheri, S.J. - 1733: and his non Euclidean Geometry
Christopher Scheiner, S.J. - 1650: sunspots and his equatorial mount
Gaspar Schott, S.J. - 1666: and the experiment at Magdeburg
Angelo Secchi, S.J. - 1878: the Father of Astrophysics
Joseph Stepling, S.J. - 1650: symbolic logic and his research academy
André Tacquet, S.J. - 1660: and his treatment of infinitesimals
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S. J. - 1955: and The Phenomenon of man
Ferdinand Verbiest, S.J. - 1688: an influential Jesuit scientist in China
Juan Bautista Villalpando, S.J. - 1608: and his version of Solomon's Temple
Gregory Saint Vincent, S.J. - 1667: and his polar coordinates
Nicolas Zucchi, S.J. - 1670: the renowned telescope maker

Influence of Some Early Jesuit Scientists

The 35 lunar craters named to honor Jesuit Scientists: their location and description
Post-Pombal Portugal opinion of Pre-Pombal Jesuit Scientists: a recent conference
Seismology, The Jesuit Science. a Jesuit history of geophysics

Another menu of Jesuit Interest

Jesuit history, tradition and spirituality

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