List Of Notable Religious Scientists

Posted in History, Religion, Science on  | 13 minutes | 1 Comment →

At the thought of perusing any list of religious scientists, the question may immediately arise: Why are we told over and over again that the Church was an impediment to science? Confusingly, the answer is because it was. Be it religious, scientific, political or otherwise, bureaucracy is notorious for clinging to tradition in the face of challenge and it has long been noted that power structures tend to favor any course of action that will preserve power. Almost all of the following science pioneers were independent thinkers that were barred from the orthodox churches and universities of their day. The pattern is one that repeats throughout history. The dominant power structure establishes the status quo, and anybody who dissents is labeled a heretic, ostracized or worse yet – executed.

There is a common misconception that science began when certain intellectuals abandoned the mythologies and religions of unenlightened times. One position is that Bible-believers, mystics or New Age thinkers contribute nothing concrete to the body of knowledge. In actuality, some of the smartest and most conceptually revolutionary people in science history were vocal religionists of one sort or another. Modern science was founded in part by theistic intellectuals who broke from the capricious and irregular views of the universe held by select Greek polytheists and other schools of antiquity. Many early scientists regarded the Bible and nature as manifestations of a Creator, and just for the record not every person who advocates religion or creation deserves the anti-intellectual connotations of religious fundamentalism.

The following list of scientists who believed will serve to argue that brilliant minds see truth wherever it may be found. Note that the list itself is not given as a direct argument for God's existence; that is a false argument. Although the concept of a set of laws is in no absolute way the direct product of religion, for many atheists have noticed lawfulness in nature since the atomists and before, theism as a philosophical tenet strongly encouraged the advance of science, most notably through modern science's direct lineage from medieval Scholasticism, which was a derivative pursuit of theology. In time the methodology came to be applied in areas outside theology, but science is indebted to religion as skateboarding is indebted to surfing; in each case the former is derivative of the latter.

1. The words, “…you could take my skin from me more easily than my faith in God,” are attributed to the founder of modern entomology, Frenchman Jean Henri Fabre (1823-1915). The Institute of France
crowned Fabre’s ten-volume series, Souvenirs entomologiques and selections from his work were used as textbooks in French schools.

2. The founder of modern computer science was a Bible-believing mathematician and inventor by the name of Charles Babbage (1792-1871). Babbage also invented the first speedometer and contributed the final essay to the famous Bridgewater Treatises, a chronicle of Christian apologetics.

3. The founder of comparative anatomy was a French Lutheran and committed Bible student by the name of Georges Cuvier (1769-1832). Cuvier published extensive papers in the field of taxonomical classification and modern science has demonstrated that his theory of multiple planetary catastrophes wiping out entire ecosystems was correct.

4. As a young Quaker, John Dalton (1766-1844) was excluded from the English Oxford University because of doctrinal differences with the Church of England. He was the first to put the optical impairment known as color blindness, also known as Daltonism, into a scientific context. Dalton composed the first table of the elements beginning with hydrogen, the lightest element, and ironically Oxford University later awarded John with a doctorate for his accomplishments.

5. Englishman Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was a principal contributor to modern chemistry, and the first to correctly note the differences between a mixture and a compound. Boyle’s Law states that the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to its pressure, and he also made notable contributions in the field of physics, being among the first to recognize that air is a medium of sound. Boyle possessed an analytical and critical mind that allowed him to strain a true science of chemistry from its metaphysical progenitor of alchemy. As a devout Christian who studied the Bible in the original languages and donated significant sums of money to translation work, the Boyle Lectures were an apologetics seminar Robert designed to persuade skeptics of the Bible’s authority.

6. The self-educated genius of the nineteenth century Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was a master at converting one form of energy into another. He was also a devout Bible believer, and following the typical pattern of repression, Faraday was barred entrance to any British university due to his dissent from the dogmatic traditions of the English Church. Like Robert Boyle before him, Faraday also refused the presidency of the Royal Society. In response to questions about the next life, on his deathbed Faraday reportedly commented, “Speculations? I have none. I am resting on certainties. I know Whom I have believed…”

7. Faraday also postulated the laws of electrolysis that form the basis of electrochemistry, and along with an ordained clergyman named William Whewell, (1794-1866) he introduced familiar terms such as cathode, electrode, ion, electrolyte and others. Whewell also coined the terms scientist and physicist as well as the various geological epochs.

8. Faraday’s co-discovery of electromagnetic induction with the American scientist Joseph Henry (1797-1878) paved the way for the electric motor, generator and transformer, and it is with reverence to Henry, also a committed Christian, that we label the standard unit of electrical inductive resistance a henry.

9. Dubbed the father of modern electronics by some, the English scientist John Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945) made extensive contributions to electronics, telegraphy and television. First called the Fleming valve, he invented the vacuum diode tube that became standard in radio and television applications until the invention of the transistor. Fleming formed an ‘Evolution Protest Movement’ and published papers on the origin-of-life debate.

10. The Bible-believing Englishman James Joule (1818-1889) replaced the incorrect caloric theory of heat, which claimed heat was a fluid, with the correct kinetic theory that attributes heat to the motion of molecules as produced by work. Joule’s work led to the first law of thermodynamics, known as the principle of energy conservation, which states that although neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed each can be converted into the other. As a tribute to this great thinker, energy units are now measured in joules.

11. Joule influenced another British scientist by the name of William Thomson Kelvin, (1824-1907) who published over 300 papers in his career and was one of the world’s foremost authorities on energy. Lord Kelvin established an absolute scale of temperature, redefined Joule’s law of energy conservation and was the first to articulate the principle of energy dissipation, also known as entropy or the second law of thermodynamics. He is also the inventor of the seaman’s compass among other nautical devices, and he also made significant contributions to telegraphy. In stark contrast to scientists of today, William Kelvin strongly supported the teaching of scripture in schools and he also opposed Darwinism on the basis of evidence from thermodynamic observations implying that Earth and the universe must have a limited history.

12. The binomial nomenclature modern homo sapiens use to classify plants and animals was invented by a Swedish theist by the name of Carolus Linnaeus, (1707-1778) who arranged over 6,000 species into genera and established the system of classification biologists use to this day.

13. Honored today as the discoverer of the Ice Ages and the chief founder of glacial geology, the Swiss-American Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), referred to the various species in the plant and animal kingdom as “thoughts of God.” The son of a Huguenot pastor, Agassiz’ detailed taxonomical classifications were unprecedented and his contributions in zoology and geology ultimately led to the formation of paleontology as a science.

14. The Frenchman Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) taught himself geometry and had invented the calculating machine by the end of his teenage years. A mind that questions tradition is crucial in both science and religion, and it was Pascal experimenting with barometric readings at different altitudes who disproved the common axiom of his day that ‘nature abhors a vacuum.’ His law of pressures applied to fluids paved the way for modern hydraulics, and Pascal was also a Christian who extended his contributions in probability to the idea of God. To paraphrase his famous wager, if the God of the Bible is true the believer gains everything and the skeptic loses everything; if the God of the Bible is untrue both are in the same shoes. The wiser bet is obvious to the reasonable individual.

15. Pascal’s fellow Frenchmen Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) first articulated the germ theory of disease and developed the first vaccine for cholera. It was Louis who invented the process of heat-flash pasteurization and his works have led to the saving of untold lives. His thorough understanding of science and the Bible led him to oppose the scientific establishment on the issue of evolution for his entire life, more notably after his famous experiments that disproved the theory of spontaneous generation.

16. Trained to be a clergyman, the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) validated and refined the Copernican hypothesis of planetary motion, delivering a fatal blow to the Ptolemic tradition that had impeded astronomy for over 2,000 years. A devout Protestant, Kepler wholeheartedly believed the magnificence of the universe implied a divine architect, and he felt that scientists were merely, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” It was Kepler who discovered that planets move in elliptical orbits and his three laws of planetary motion paved the way for Isaac Newton’s theories. Although he made a living by drafting astrological charts, like Boyle before him with chemistry and alchemy, Kepler sifted the science of astronomy from the spiritual tradition of astrology.

17, 18. Calculus was co-invented by a German-born Christian named Gottfried Leibnitz (1646-1716) and the English Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). As founder and first president of the Berlin Academy of Sciences, far ahead of modern geology Leibnitz correctly hypothesized that Earth was once a molten planet whose crust had cooled into vitrified land. He also made considerable contributions to theology, geology and politics, and in philosophical circles he is known for his Principle of Sufficient Reason. He publicly defended the doctrine of the Trinity and urged all Christians to unite their energies in a common cause as opposed to fussing and fighting over doctrinal differences. Newton discovered the universal law of gravity and also invented the mirror-equipped reflecting telescope. Of the universe’s magnificence, Newton wrote “…this most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being…I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.” Although a believer, unlike Leibnitz, Newton reportedly denied belief in the doctrine of the Trinity.

19. The German Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866) was the son of a Lutheran pastor who pioneered the advance of non-Euclidean geometry and expounded on several theorems and concepts that bear his name including Riemannian geometry, the Reimann integral and the Riemann approach to function theory. Riemann introduced the idea of curved space into science and used his knowledge of the scriptures to postulate mathematical ‘proofs’ of the Bible’s divine inspiration.

20. The father of modern genetics was an Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) who discovered the principle of heredity while experimenting with the humble pea-pod. Mendel discovered the importance of genes in transmitting an organism’s characteristics, in stark contrast to Darwin’s erroneous notion that traits were intermediate blends of parental features.

21. Most of us are familiar with the household product known as Listerine, and it was Joseph Lister (1827-1912) who founded the practice of antiseptic surgery, an achievement that has revolutionized modern medicine and prevented literally millions of unnecessary deaths. Lister also founded the British Institute of Preventative Medicine and described himself to his atheist peers as “a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.”

22. Another familiar name is George Washington Carver, (1864-1943) the American agriculturist who devoted his life to improving economic conditions in the South. It was Carver who caught on to the idea of regenerative planting and he taught southern farmers to revitalize their soils by planting peanuts and sweet potatoes as opposed to cotton. He also pioneered the fabrication of synthetic marble from wood chips. Carver received the Roosevelt medal at age 75 with the following words engraved upon it: “To a scientist humbly seeking the guidance of God and a liberator to men of the white race as well as the black.”

23-35. Other notable Bible-believing scientists and thinkers include Sir William Huggins, (1824-1910) the first to isolate starlight into constituent colors; Oxford’s John Kidd, (1775-1851) early pioneer of chemical synthetics who was a devout Christian and Bridgewater Treatise contributor; Britain’s James Clerk Maxwell, (1831-1870) who articulated the electromagnetic theory of light and openly confessed Jesus as Lord; pastor and geologist John Michell, (1724-1793) who founded the science of seismology and was the first to conceive of black holes; the American artist Samuel Morse, (1791-1872) inventor of the Morse code who developed early working prototypes of an electric telegraph and is generally remembered as the inventor of Sunday school; the self-educated Frenchman Ambrose Paré, (1510-1590) one of the greatest surgeons of all time whose common saying, “I treated him, God cured him” is etched into the famous statue bearing his likeness in Paris; William Prout, (1785-1850) English discover of free hydrochloric acid in the stomach and the first to relate the atomic weights to the standard of hydrogen; Nobel prize winner Sir William Ramsay (1852-1916) who discovered an entire array of gaseous elements in 1898 including neon, krypton and xenon; the Englishman Peter Mark Roget, (1779-1869) Bridgewater Treatise contributor who pioneered the invention of motion pictures; Sir James Simpson, (1811-1870) the Scottish founder of anesthesiology who discovered the analgesic effects of chloroform in 1847; Sir George Stokes (1819-1903), physicist and mathematician who made important contributions to science including the Navier-Stokes equations and Stokes' theorem; William Paley, author of the teleological classic Natural Theology; Thomas Sydenham, (1624-1689) discoverer of quinine as malaria’s cure, and Theodoric of Freibourg, (1250-1310) the German discoverer of the rainbow’s cause, which we shall explore in fuller detail later.

Nanoscientist James Tour remarked, “Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God,” and that’s precisely the way many founding fathers of science approached the matter. Science did not begin in a context of atheism and the fact that many of science's foremost pioneers ranged from lukewarm theists to outright Christians seems to have fallen by the wayside.

One comment

  1. Brad


    I think the mathematician Leonhard Euler also tried to mathematically prove the Bible in addition to Riemann and was a devout believer. (Perhaps my neurons are cross-firing incorrectly, though.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *