This site has been archived for historical purposes. These pages are no longer being updated.


Jesuit Mathematicians,
Scientists and Astronomers

The fact that eighty countries of the world have found that the Jesuit impact on these countries deserves commemorative stamps is an emphatic endorsement of world-wide interest in Jesuits. A few copies of the hundreds of stamps concerning Jesuit apostolates have been selected and displayed on these pages. They are arranged in eight different categories with as many stamps on a page as could reasonably fit. The narratives for the stamps derive from sources such as The Jesuit Annuarium (Yearbook) and Bangert's History of the Society of Jesus.

Some Jesuits fall into several categories so are mentioned more than once as long as there were different stamps for the different categories. Unfortunately many Jesuits who deserve mention were never honored by stamps. So, while this collection is not an exhaustive history of the Jesuit Society, it does indicate the world-wide interest in Jesuits. Pozzo's celebrated fresco on the ceiling of St. Ignatius provides a fitting introduction. (Joseph F. MacDonnell, S.J.)

Part 1 Mathematics and Science

1. Christopher Clavius, S.J. (1538-1612)
A 1982 Vatican stamp shows the German Jesuit explaining his new (Gregorian) Calendar to Pope Gregory. A very large lunar crater is named after Clavius who had immense influence on his contemporaries. He has been referred to as the "most influential teacher of the Renaissance."

2. Ferdinand Verbiest, S.J. (1623-1688)
A 1988 Belgian stamp honors this Belgian Jesuit who restructured the calendar, determined the elusive Russo-Chinese border and rebuilt the imperial observatory, still a Beijing tourist attraction. He taught mathematics to the young Emperor K'ang Hsi who gave him permission to preach Christianity throughout China. Little went on in the empire without Verbiest.

3. Matteo Ricci, S.J. (1552-1610)
A 1983 Chinese stamp celebrates the arrival in China of this Italian Jesuit. No past European name is as well known in China as Li-ma-teu (Ricci). His story is told by Jonathan Spence in the 1984 best seller The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. One can still visit Ricci's tomb in Beijing.

Charles Rey, S.J. (1910-1981) A1984 Isle of Jersey stamp honors this Senegalese Jesuit physicist who served for 47 years in the Jesuit Observatory.

5. Juan Molina, S.J. (1767-1823)
Two 1967 Chilean stamps honor this Italian botanist as the "first scientist of Chile" and "benefactor of national education".

6. The Jesuit College La Flèche
A French stamp recalls the illustrious alumni such as Renè Descartes for which he wrote "I am eternally grateful to the Jesuits."

7. Jesuit Scientists of Siam in 1685
A 1986 French stamp recalls that diplomatic relations were established with Thailand (Siam) in 1685 because the king of Siam wanted the same kind of Jesuit observatory in Siam that the Jesuits were running in Peking. It emphasizes the impact Jesuit scientists had throughout the world. The scene is the Court of Versailles in the mid-17th century where there was enormous interest in Jesuit missions. Louis XIV had sent to Siam Jesuit members of the Académie des Sciences modestly naming the group the "Royal Mathematicians".

8. Ferdinand Bonnell, S.J. (1901-1938)
A 1988 Sri Lanka stamp honors this Belgian Jesuit who was a pioneer in the development of this island nation and also was an educator of immense prestige. He was the founder of St. Michael's College noted for its preeminence in meteorology .

9. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. (1892-1955)
A 1982 stamp from Jersey honors this French paleontologist. Absorbed in the process of evolution, Teilhard believed that it is in man that the evolutionary process finds its consummation.

10. Jesuit Observatory in Manila
Three 1965 Philippine stamps celebrate the centennial of the Jesuit Meteorological observatory which was founded in 1865, thus "celebrating a century of meteorological service."

11. Roger Boscovich (1711-1787)
The newborn republic of Croatia in four of its banknotes honors this Croatian Jesuit who developed the first coherent description of atomic theory which is one of the great attempts to understand the structure of the universe. What is remarkable is that his works appeared well over a century before the birth of modern atomic theory, and his influence on modern atomic physics is evident from the number of scientific articles still written about him.

Part 2 Astronomy and Aeronautics

1-4. The Jesuit Astronomical Observatory in Rome
Four Vatican stamps honor the Specola Vaticana at the Papal Palace in Castelgandolfo. Under Jesuit direction since 1582 it is the oldest observatory in the Western World. Today, observations, which had been impeded by the Roman city lights, are carried out in Tucson, AR.

5. The Jesuit Astronomical Observatory in Manila
A 1971 Philippine stamp celebrates 400 years of Jesuits and the Jesuit Astronomical Observatory in Manila.

6. Matteo Ricci, S.J. (1552-1610)
A 1983 Chinese stamp celebrates this Italian Jesuit whose knowledge of mathematics made him the court mathematician in Peking where he introduced trigonometric instruments and translated Euclid into Chinese. He published the first maps of China ever available to the West.

7. Maximilian Hell, S.J. (1720 - 1792)
A 1970 Czechoslovakian stamp honors this German astronomer, dressed as a Laplander. It was there that he was first to observe a transit of Venus. He was director of the astronomy observatory in Vienna, even after the Suppression of the Jesuits. A lunar crater is named after him.

8. Roger Boscovich, S.J. (1711-1787)
A 1987 Yugoslavian stamp honors this Croatian Jesuit astronomer showing the observatory in Milan which Boscovich designed. "Yugoslavia's greatest genius" tracked solar eclipses, invented the ring micrometer and an achromatic telescope. A lunar crater is named after him. After his death his works were dispersed throughout the world in libraries such as the special Boscovich Archives at Berkeley. The enthusiasm Russian mathematicians have always shown for his work is recently being shared by the West.

9. Christopher Clavius, S.J. (1538-1612)
A 1982 Vatican stamp shows the German Jesuit who was one to whom scholars and potentates would entrust the most sensitive scientific problems of his day. His ubiquitous geometry book led to his being called the Euclid of the l6th Century.

10-12. Angelo Pietro Secchi, S.J. (1818-1878)
.A 1979 series of Vatican stamps honors this Italian Jesuit astronomer. The three instruments perfected by Secchi are shown in the stamps: the meteorograph, the spectroscope and the telescope. Astronomers call him "the Father of Astrophysics".

13. José de Acosta, S.J. (1540-1600)
A 1965 Spanish stamp honors this Spanish Jesuit who has been called the Pliny of the New World . For his work on altitude sickness in the Andes he is considered a pioneer of modern aeronautical medicine: "He opened the way for celestial and aeronautical medical research".

14-16. Francesco Lana Terzi, S.J. (1631 - 1687)
Belize, Mali and Zaire stamps honor this Italian inventor/physicist. The distinctive four metallic balloons are found in the literature on the history of flight. Lana's 1670 work predates by a century the first manned balloon flight. He is called the "Father of Aeronautics."

17-18. Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmao, S.J. (1685-1724)
Two 1985 and 1987 Brazilian stamps honors this Brazilian Jesuit physicist/inventor and commemorates his public 1709 demonstration at the royal court in Lisbon, in the presence of King John III. He momentarily got off the ground but in doing so set fire to a part of the king's house. "Fortunately the king did not take it ill", an onlooker later wrote.

A Philatelic Display of the Jesuit Mission has four parts

Jesuit Mathematicians and Scientists
Jesuit Artists and Scholars
Jesuit Founders and Schools
Jesuit Missionaries and Saints

Return to Home Page