John Augustine Zahm

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John Augustine Zahm

Father Zahm, CSC
Born(1851-06-14)June 14, 1851
DiedNovember 10, 1921(1921-11-10) (aged 70)
Other namesH. J. Mozans
EducationUniversity of Notre Dame
ChurchRoman Catholicism
Offices held
Provincial of the Indiana Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross

The Rev. John Augustine Zahm (pseudonym H. J. Mozans), CSC (June 14, 1851 – November 10, 1921) was a Holy Cross priest, author, scientist, and South American explorer. He was born at New Lexington, Ohio, and died in Munich, Germany.[1]

Education and career[edit]

Zahm attended the University of Notre Dame in 1867 and graduated with honors in 1871 as a Novitiate of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. He finished his theological studies and was ordained in 1875.[2] Zahm was hired by the University of Notre Dame as a science teacher although he had interest in literature.[3] His brother Albert attended Notre Dame as a student while John was on the faculty.[2]

During his time teaching he wrote the text Sound and Music in 1892.[4] He was appointed the Vice President of Notre Dame at 25 years of age and held the position for nine years. In 1895, he was recognized as Doctor of Philosophy by Pope Leo XIII.[4] Fr. John Zahm championed the view of Notre Dame becoming a research university dedicated to scholarship, which was at odds with Fr. Andrew Morrissey, who hoped to keep the institution a smaller boarding school.[5]


He went on to fill various positions in the Congregation, at one time being a provincial from 1898 to 1906 and served as Procurator General for the Congregation of the Holy Cross.[citation needed] Zahm became a leader in the drive to pacify the tensions between Roman Catholicism and Darwinian biology, and became well known in the Catholic arena as he was asked to speak at many Catholic Winter and Summer School lectures. His lectures concerning Genesis can be found in a volume called "Bible, Science and Faith".[citation needed]


Father Zahm is the author of many scholarly texts and published works against the Darwin movement.[6] He also wrote Catholic scientific essays published in American Catholic Quarterly and Catholic World, among others.[4]

Father Zahm fought through writing and used his detailed background in science to defend the ability of God and Catholic faith to remain in the scientific sphere. Focusing on Catholic men of science in the past, Zahm founded a magazine, Catholic Science and Catholic Scientists. Between 1891-96, he published multiple books and articles on the topic, culminating with Evolution and Dogma in 1896.[7]

In this text, as in his others, Zahm argued that Roman Catholicism could fully accept an evolutionary view of biological systems, as long as this view was not centered around Darwin's theory of natural selection. After the Vatican decided to censure the book in 1898, Zahm fully accepted this rebuttal and pulled away from any writing concerning the relationship of theology and science.[4]

He authored (sometimes under the pseudonym of H. J. Mozans), a number of books covering a large variety of subjects. He kept his identity a secret for fear that his work would be regarded as compromised and/or disregarded over the fact that he was a Catholic priest.[clarification needed][citation needed]

Fr. Zahm's pseudonym was derived from the way he signed his name as a youth: Jno. S. (Stanislaus, an abandoned middle name) Zahm. His works have been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, and have been published and read North and South America, as well as in Europe. These include: Woman in Science and Great Inspirers,[8] both of which noted the involvement of women in scientific research and advocated for greater involvement in the sciences by women. Fr. Zahm defied beliefs that women were incapable and divinely appointed to not interfere with science.[citation needed] The Quest for El Dorado, and the general title of his trilogy was "Following the Conquistadores",[9] and the titles of books called Up the Orinoco and Down the Magdalena (1910), Along the Andes and Down the Amazon (1912) and In South America's Southland (1916),[10] all drew from his travels throughout South America. He was an enthusiastic Dante student and assembled at Notre Dame one of the three largest of the Dante libraries in the U.S.[citation needed]

Zahm befriended 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, who also loved and read Dante in Italian. It was Father Zahm who talked President Roosevelt into participating in what came to be known as the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition to South America, and which would also include Theodore's son, Kermit, and Colonel Da Silva Candido Rondon, to go up the Rio da Dúvida (River of Doubt, now the Roosevelt River). This trip[11] deteriorated into a near disaster which caused one man to drown, another to be murdered, and Roosevelt nearly dying, shortening his life by probably ten years from the combined effects of malaria and infection. The trip almost cost the others their lives as well, as the members lost boats to waterfalls and rapids and almost ran out of food. They barely made it to the first sign of civilization and some certainty that they would survive. The elder Roosevelt had to be carried off his canoe, so weak and ravaged by sickness had he become.[citation needed]

Zahm unwisely delegated planning and provisioning of the trip, and so irritated Roosevelt and Rondon that he was not permitted to go on the expedition itself, but took a side trip instead. Throughout his life he collected maps, photographs, relics, and curios which were added to the valuable collection of fifteen hundred volumes of South American history and research work at Notre Dame.[citation needed]

Death and legacy[edit]

Fr. Zahm planned a book on historical and archaeological study of the Holy Land, but died of bronchial pneumonia in a Munich hospital en route to the Middle East. The manuscripts of his working book From Berlin to Baghdad and Babylon was found and published posthumously.[12]

Zahm Hall, a male dormitory at Notre Dame, is dedicated in his honor, and its chapel is dedicated to Albertus Magnus, whom Fr. Zahm saw as a pioneer in bridging the gap between science and religion.[citation needed]

Works authored[edit]

  • John Augustine Zahm (1896), Evolution and dogma, Chicago: D. H. McBride, OL 7119332M
  • John Augustine Zahm (1896), Scientific theory and Catholic doctrine, Chicago: D. H. McBride & Co. (Full Text)
  • John Augustine Zahm; H. J. Mozans (1910), ... Up the Orinoco and down the Magdalena, New York: D. Appleton and company, OCLC 1709644 (Full Text)
  • John Augustine Zahm (1911), Along the Andes and down the Amazon, New York: D. Appleton (Full Text)
  • John Augustine Zahm (1917), The quest of El Dorado, New York: D. Appleton and Co., OCLC 2589236 (Full Text)
  • John Augustine Zahm; H.J. Mozans (1913), Woman in science, New York: D. Appleton and Co. (Full Text)

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Appleby, R. Scott. (1987). Between Americanism and Modernism: John Zahm and Theistic Evolution. Church History. Vol. 56, No. 4. pp. 474–490.
  • Sloan, Philip R. (2009). Bringing Evolution to Notre Dame: Father John Zahm, C.S.C. and Theistic Evolutionism. American Midland Naturalist. Vol. 161, No. 2. pp. 189–205.
  • The Catholic Historical Review[13] wrote about John Augustine Zahm: "Dr. John H. Zahm, C. S. C.", The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Jan., 1922), p. 480, Published by: Catholic University of America Press[14]


  1. ^ Bowden, Henry Warner, ed. (1977). "Zahm, John Augustine". Dictionary of American religious biography (1st ed.). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 539–40. ISBN 0-8371-8906-3.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b "Father Zahm". Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  3. ^ Rev. John A. Zahm, C.S.C., University of Notre Dame-Center for Ethics and Culture
  4. ^ a b c d History of the Zahm Dante Collection, A biography of John A. Zahm, C.S.C. Archived 2008-01-08 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed July 5, 2017.
  5. ^ Miller, Greg. "A Notre Dame Procession" (PDF). Scholastic Archive. The Scholastic. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  6. ^ New Catholic World. p. 580. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  7. ^ Cavanaugh, John. "John Zahm". The Story of Notre Dame. Retrieved February 7, 2012.
  8. ^ "Great Inspirers". Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  9. ^ "Following the conquistadores: Zahm, John Augustine, 1851-1921: Free Download & Streaming: Internet Archive". Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  10. ^ "THROUGH SOUTH AMERICA'S SOUTHLAND - Rev. J.A. Zahm's Unique Volume of Travel Containing an Account of the Roosevelt Scientific Expedition - Review". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  11. ^ Edmund Morris (2010-11-23). Colonel Roosevelt. p. 672. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  12. ^ A. Zahm. "From Berlin to Bagdad and Babylon (Classic Reprint)". Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  13. ^ "The Sacred Heart Review 31 August 1918 — Boston College". 1918-08-31. Retrieved 2017-07-06.
  14. ^ "Dr. John H. Zahm, C. S. C.". The Catholic Historical Review. Catholic University of America Press. 7: 480. January 1922. JSTOR 25011823.


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