Google Honors Catholic Bishop and Scientist

Today's Google Doodle honors Nicolas Steno, the father of geology who also happened to be a Catholic bishop. The Christian Science Monitor tells his story:

Don't feel bad if you've never heard of Nicolas Steno. Even though the 17th century Danish anatomist and geologist made a number of discoveries that are now seen as self-evident – namely, that the heart is a muscle that pumps blood, that tears are formed in the eye, that fossils are the remains of living organisms from previous geologic eras, and that older rocks tend to lie deeper in the earth than younger ones – his legacy, like the mysterious stones that he examined, have since been obscured by layers of historical sediment.

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Perhaps some of Steno's obscurity arises from his failure to fit into a narrative that science and religion are adversaries. Unlike Galileo, whom the Catholic church famously threatened to torture if he did not recant, Steno was embraced by the Vatican. Yet his discoveries set in motion a revolution that would ultimately unseat the Bible as the authority on the age of the earth.

Nicolas Steno was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988. You can read the rest of the CSM article here.

Tim Reidy

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
6 years 4 months ago
Great article.  When people mistakenly claim the Church is anti science, they are not in touch with history.  I believe the Jesuits have produced a number of great scientists, especially astronomers.  See
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Jesuit_scientists
 
and for priests who were scientists
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_Catholic_cleric–scientists

And the conventional wisdom about Galileo is wrong.  He was not censored because of religion or science.  His crime was political
 

6 years 4 months ago
I had never heard of Nicholas Steno until I read Alan Cutler's book, "A Seashell on the Mountaintop" a few years ago.  It is one of my favorite books and I'm happy that he was beatified by Pope John Paul, II  As a Dane and Lutheran, his cnversion to Catholicism brought him conflict with the rulers of his native land.  But, he loved Italy and the story of his conversion and rise to bishop are fascinating.  He was never in conflict with Rome over his scientific theories and is considered to be the father of geology.  He lived an aesthetic lifestyle  of holiness.
You will have to read the book to find out how Descartes explained the workings of the heart and how scientists theorized about the seashells found on mountaintops! 

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