Synopses & Reviews
With their dozens of universities and colleges, the Jesuits held a monopoly over higher education in Catholic Germany in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Using rich, previously untapped sources, Marcus Hellyer traces the development of science instruction at these institutions over a period stretching from the Counter-Reformation to the height of the Enlightenment. He argues that the Scientific Revolution was not an all-or-nothing affair; Jesuit professors enthusiastically adopted particular elements, such as experimental natural philosophy, while doggedly rejecting others, such as mechanical theories of matter. Hellyer's examination of the Jesuit colleges over a span of two centuries, from the late sixteenth century to 1773, demonstrates that digesting the New Science was a lengthy process. Jesuit colleges were still actively confronting, rejecting, or absorbing crucial components of the Scientific Revolution when the Society was suppressed in 1773. Catholic Physics also explores the fascinating interaction between Jesuit natural philosophy and theology, which, though marked by constant tension, was also quite fruitful. For example, the censorship of natural philosophy by the Jesuit hierarchy in Rome was a negotiated process in which Jesuit professors accepted the necessity of censorship, yet constantly sought to circumvent regulations imposed on them by teaching controversial questions such as Copernican cosmology. After the Galileo affair, Jesuit physics professors made sure they declared that heliocentrism was wrong, but they also taught their students the advantages it held over the rival cosmology sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Hellyer's pioneering book will bewelcomed not only by historians but by those engaged in the important and ongoing debate between science and religion.