“Marcus Hellyer has done a truly extraordinary amount of careful and reliable research. This book is historical scholarship in its best sense.” —Richard Blackwell, St. Louis University
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 yet 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, this study reveals that 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.
By investigating the neglected yet influential Jesuit colleges of early modern Germany, Hellyer brings new sources and insight to the field of history of science. His pioneering book will be welcomed not only by historians but by those engaged in the important and ongoing debate between science and religion.
“[I]t will come as no surprise to read Marcus Hellyer’s lucid, learned, judicious account of Jesuit universities and colleges in the German Assistancy, in which their teachers figure not as backward or duplicitous (in feigning not to accept Copernicianism, for instance), but as educators who were phenomenally successful at dominating the universities and colleges of Catholic Germany for two centuries . . . .Hellyer rejects the view that links scientific progress to Protestantism and sees Catholicism and science as incompatible, and denies that backward Jesuit science . . . somehow stunted the intellectual, cultural, or even moral development of Catholic Germany.” — Journal of Ecclesiastical History
“Marcus Hellyer opens a world of diversity and unexpected intellectual foment. . . . This volume successfully dispels any ideas that Jesuits were Luddites either philosophically or “scientifically” in the period before their suppression. They did face an increasingly difficult task of reconciling what was developing in the world of science and philosophy with their presuppositional beliefs in the Bible . . . and traditional Catholic theology/philosophy” — American Historical Review
“Catholic Physics is a well-researched book, citing nearly three hundred primary sources, most in Latin, and over four hundred secondary sources. [It] is a book the nonspecialist can read without difficulty. . . . A worthwhile read.” — Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
“This is a thoughtful, well-documented book. Highly recommended.” — Choice
“Hellyer makes his case and in so doing has produced a remarkable book. Catholic Physics . . . is beautifully written and . . . deserves a wide readership.” — ISIS
“Catholic Physics is a major contribution to the history of the Jesuit educational and intellectual apostolate in 17th and 18th century German lands. . . . [It is a] carefully organized, sharply focused, meticulously researched and thoughtful evaluation of the success and limitations of a Jesuit apostolate that combined academic resources, traditional and innovative, in the service of the Church.” — Archivum Historicum
“. . . Only in recent years has there emerged a more nuanced appreciation of the Jesuit contribution to the Scientific Revolution, and Marcus Hellyer’s informative overview of the teaching of natural philosophy in the German Assistancy of the Society of Jesus makes a welcome contribution to this new trend in scholarship.” — Renaissance Quarterly
“Focusing on three German universities—the smaller ones of Mainz and Würtzburg and the larger, more important one of Ingolstadt—Hellyer tells the story of the development of Jesuit, Catholic natural philosophy from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. . . . This is an important study of the early modern German Jesuits and their natural philosophical teachings.” — Sixteenth Century Journal
“Hellyer’s book is the first broad attempt to survey the place and changing character of natural philosophy in Jesuit colleges and universities, albeit restricted to the German lands, over a period of almost two centuries, and in doing so it provides an invaluable resource for grasping the greater significance of the Jesuits in the history of early modern science. . . . Future claims about the character and development of Jesuit natural philosophy in early modern Europe will need to engage seriously with Hellyer.” — British Journal for the History of Science
“. . . Explores the relations between knowledge and faith in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries through a careful examination of the Jesuit physics curriculum in the colleges established in a loose-knit and complex political definition of their German province, which included Upper Germany, the Rhineland, Austria, parts of Bohemia and Flanders, and even the English college in Liege.” — Central European History
“Hellyer charts an institutionally and intellectually complex terrain with considerable skill and subtlety. His subject matter is natural philosophy as found in Jesuit colleges and universities scattered throughout the territories of early modern Catholic Germany.” — Church History
“The great advantage of this thorough study is that it examines natural philosophy over a period of more than 200 years, beginning with the foundation of the first Jesuit colleges in Germany in the 1550s and concluding with the suppression of the society in 1773. Hellyer’s work is richly textured, and he moves easily from the rarefied world of early-modern universities and pedagogical theories to the ‘real’ world theatre of experiment. The result of this thoughtful and nuanced study, which concentrates on a broad swathe of chronology and a number of issues, will hopefully open up new avenues for research in the history of science and early-modern Germany.” — European History Quarterly