Since this list is getting some play on the web, I figured I would post it here...since I wrote it. I had cobbled together this top-ten list for the promotion of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, and it will appear in the paperback edition some time next year. Let me know if I left anything out (nice stuff, that is.) Or, heaven forfend, if I made any mistakes. Anyway, enjoy what we used to call in grammar school "Fun Facts to Know and Tell."
Ten Things You Didn’t Know (About the Jesuits)
1. They invented the trap door. Without the Jesuits, the Wicked Witch of the West wouldn’t have been able to disappear so suddenly in The Wizard of Oz. With a long history of participation in theater and the arts, Jesuits also perfected the “scrim,” the sheer curtain still used in many theaters today.
2. They discovered--or at least first reported and introduced to Europe--quinine (called “Jesuit bark” in the 16th century), which is used today for anti-malarial drugs and also in tonic water. Without the Jesuits, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy your gin and tonic--or at least with so little guilt.
3. Their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491—1556), the Spanish-soldier-turned-mystic may be the only saint with a notarized police record: for nighttime brawling with intent to cause bodily harm. (Needless to say, this came before his conversion.)
4. Their dictionaries and lexicons of the native languages in North America in the 17th century were the first resources Europeans used to understand these ancient tongues, and they still provide modern scholars with many of the earliest transcriptions of the languages.
5. They located the source of the Blue Nile and charted large stretches of the Amazon and Mississippi Rivers.
6. They educated, among others, Descartes, Voltaire, Moliere, James Joyce, Peter Paul Rubens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Fidel Castro, Alfred Hitchcock, and Bill Clinton—not to mention Bing Crosby, Vince Lombardi, Robert Altman, Chris Farley, Salma Hayek, and Denzel Washington.
7. They founded the city of Sao Paolo, Brazil.
8. There are 35 craters on the moon named for Jesuit scientists. And Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century Jesuit scientist, called “master of a hundred arts” and “the last man to know everything,” was a geologist, biologist, linguist, decipherer of hieroglyphics, and inventor of the megaphone.
9. They inspired the film On the Waterfront, based on the groundbreaking labor-relations work of Jesuit John M. Corridan, who worked in New York City in the 1940s and 1950s. His part was played by Karl Malden, who, last year, died 50 years to the day after Fr. Corridan.
10. They count 40 saints and dozens of blesseds among their members, including the globe-trotting missionary St. Francis Xavier. Their famous “former” members include Garry Wills, John McLaughlin, and Jerry Brown.