1st Edition

Jesuit Science and the End of Nature's Secrets

By Mark A. Waddell Copyright 2015

    Jesuit Science and the End of Nature’s Secrets explores how several prominent Jesuit naturalists - including Niccolò Cabeo, Athanasius Kircher, and Gaspar Schott - tackled the problem of occult or insensible causation in the seventeenth century. The search for hidden causes lay at the heart of the early modern study of nature, and included phenomena such as the activity of the magnet, the marvelous powers ascribed to certain animals and plants, and the hidden, destructive forces churning in the depths of the Earth. While this was a project embraced by most early modern naturalists, however, the book demonstrates that the Jesuits were uniquely suited to the study of nature’s hidden secrets because of the complex methods of contemplation and meditation enshrined at the core of their spirituality. Divided into six chapters, the work documents how particular Jesuits sought to reveal and expose nature’s myriad secrets through an innovative blending of technology, imagery, and experiment. Moving beyond the conventional Aristotelianism mandated by the Society of Jesus, they set forth a vision of the world that made manifest the works of God as Creator, no matter how deeply hidden those works were. The book thus not only presents a narrative that challenges present-day assumptions about the role played by Catholic religious communities in the formation of modern science, but also captures the exuberance and inventiveness of the early modern study of nature.

    Introduction; Chapter 1 The Crisis of Certainty; Chapter 2 Building a Better Ontology; Chapter 3 The Demise of Occult Qualities; Chapter 4 Spectacle, Uncertainty, and the Fallibility of the Eye; Chapter 5 Probabilism, or the World as it Might Be; Chapter 6 The Culture of Marvels, Exposed; Chapter 101 Conclusion;


    Mark A. Waddell is an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, with a joint appointment in the Lyman Briggs College and the Department of History. He received his PhD in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology from the Johns Hopkins University in 2006.

    "In this book Waddell has managed to convey the dilemmas facing seventeenth-century religious trying to reconcile emerging science — the legacy of Aristotle — with the mysteries of nature. He is to be commended on the clarity of his language in presenting the development of thought where there was much obfuscation."

    - John N. Crossley, Monash University

    "Through a series of case studies on ontology, demonology, magnetism and the occult, Mark A. Waddell presents a clear and orderd discourse on hidden causes."

    - Hannah Murphy, Oriel College, Oxford