List of lay Catholic scientists

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"The Vitruvian Man" by Leonardo da Vinci

Many Catholics have made significant contributions to the development of science and mathematics from the Middle Ages to today. These scientists include Galileo Galilei,[1] René Descartes,[2] Louis Pasteur,[3] Blaise Pascal, André-Marie Ampère, Charles-Augustin de Coulomb, Pierre de Fermat, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Alessandro Volta,[4] Augustin-Louis Cauchy, Pierre Duhem, Jean-Baptiste Dumas, Alois Alzheimer, Georgius Agricola, and Christian Doppler.

For additional Catholic scientists, see the List of Catholic clergy scientists.

The lay Catholic scientists[edit]



  • Jacques Babinet (1794–1872) – French physicist, mathematician, and astronomer who is best known for his contributions to optics [10]
  • Stephen M. Barr (1953–) – professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware and a member of its Bartol Research Institute
  • Joachim Barrande (1799–1883) – French geologist and paleontologist who studied fossils from the Lower Palaeozoic rocks of Bohemia [11]
  • Laura Bassi (1711–1778) – physicist at the University of Bologna and Chair in experimental physics at the Bologna Institute of Sciences, the first woman to be offered a professorship at a European university
  • Antoine César Becquerel (1788–1878) – pioneer in the study of electric and luminescent phenomena
  • Henri Becquerel (1852–1908) – awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his co-discovery of radioactivity
  • Carlo Beenakker (1960–) – professor at Leiden University and leader of the university's mesoscopic physics group, established in 1992.
  • Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1778–1823) – prolific Italian explorer and pioneer archaeologist of Egyptian antiquities[12]
  • Pierre-Joseph van Beneden (1809–1894) – Belgian zoologist and paleontologist who established one of the world's first marine laboratories and aquariums[13]
  • Claude Bernard (1813–1878) – physiologist who helped to apply scientific methodology to medicine
  • Jacques Philippe Marie Binet (1786–1856) – mathematician known for Binet's formula and his contributions to number theory
  • Jean-Baptiste Biot (1774–1862) – physicist who established the reality of meteorites and studied polarization of light
  • John Birmingham (astronomer) (1816–1884) – Irish astronomer who discovered the recurrent nova T Coronae Borealis and revised and extended Schjellerup's Catalogue of Red Stars.[14]
  • Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville (1777–1850) – zoologist and anatomist who coined the term paleontology and described several new species of reptiles[15]
  • Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608–1679) – often referred to as the father of modern biomechanics
  • Raoul Bott (1923–2005) – mathematician known for numerous basic contributions to geometry in its broad sense[16][17]
  • Marcella Boveri (1863–1950) – biologist and first woman to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Theodor Boveri (1862–1915) – first to hypothesize the cellular processes that cause cancer
  • Louis Braille (1809–1852) – inventor of the Braille reading and writing system
  • Edouard Branly (1844–1940) – inventor and physicist known for his involvement in wireless telegraphy and his invention of the Branly coherer
  • James Britten (1846–1924) – botanist, member of the Catholic Truth Society and Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great[18]
  • Hermann Brück (1905–2000) – Astronomer Royal for Scotland from 1957–1975; honored by Pope John Paul II
  • Albert Brudzewski (c. 1445–c.1497) – first to state that the Moon moves in an ellipse


  • Nicola Cabibbo (1935–2010) – Italian physicist, discoverer of the universality of weak interactions (Cabibbo angle), President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences from 1993 until his death
  • Alexis Carrel (1873–1944) – awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for pioneering vascular suturing techniques
  • John Casey (mathematician) (1820–1891) – Irish geometer known for Casey's theorem
  • Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625–1712) – first to observe four of Saturn's moons and the co-discoverer of the Great Red Spot on Jupiter
  • Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789–1857) – mathematician who was an early pioneer in analysis
  • Andrea Cesalpino (c.1525–1603) – botanist who also theorized on the circulation of blood
  • Jean-François Champollion (1790–1832) – published the first translation of the Rosetta Stone
  • Michel Chasles (1793–1880) – mathematician who elaborated on the theory of modern projective geometry and was awarded the Copley Medal
  • Guy de Chauliac (c.1300–1368) – most eminent surgeon of the Middle Ages
  • Chien-jen Chen (1951–) – Taiwanese epidemiologist researching hepatitis B, liver cancer risk of people with hepatitis B, link of arsenic to blackfoot disease [zh], etc.[19]
  • Michel Eugène Chevreul (1786–1889) – Considered one of the major figures in the early development of organic chemistry;[20] stated "Those who know me also know that born a Catholic, the son of Christian parents, I live and I mean to die a Catholic"[21]
  • Mateo Realdo Colombo (1516–1559) – discovered the pulmonary circuit,[22] which paved the way for Harvey's discovery of circulation
  • Arthur W. Conway (1876–1950) – remembered for his application of biquaternion algebra to the special theory of relativity
  • E. J. Conway (1894–1968) – Irish biochemist known for works pertaining to electrolyte physiology and analytical chemistry[23]
  • Carl Ferdinand Cori (1896–1984) – shared the 1947 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with his wife for their discovery of the Cori cycle
  • Gerty Cori (1896–1957) – biochemist who was the first American woman win a Nobel Prize in science (1947)[24]
  • Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis (1792–1843) – formulated laws regarding rotating systems, which later became known as the Corialis effect
  • Domenico Cotugno (1736–1822) – Italian anatomist who discovered the nasopalatine nerve, demonstrated the existence of the labyrinthine fluid, and formulated a theory of resonance and hearing, among other important contributions
  • Maurice Couette (1858–1943) – best known for his contributions to rheology and the theory of fluid flow; appointed a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope Pius XI in 1925[25]
  • Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (1736–1806) – physicist known for developing Coulomb's law
  • Clyde Cowan (1919–1974) – co-discoverer of the neutrino
  • Jean Cruveilhier (1791–1874) – made important contributions to the study of the nervous system and was the first to describe the lesions associated with multiple sclerosis; originally planned to enter the priesthood
  • Endre Czeizel (1935–2015) – Discovered that folic acid prevents or reduces the formation of more serious developmental disorders, such as neural tube defects like spina bifida


  • Gabriel Auguste Daubrée (1814–1896) – pioneer in the application of experimental methods to the study of diverse geologic phenomena[26]
  • Peter Debye (1884–1966) – Awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1936 "for his contributions to our knowledge of molecular structure through his investigations on dipole moments and on the diffraction of X-rays and electrons in gases."[27]
  • Charles Enrique Dent (1911–1976) – British biochemist who defined new amino-acid diseases such as various forms of Fanconi syndrome, Hartnup disease, argininosuccinic aciduria and homocystinuria[28]
  • René Descartes (1596–1650) – father of modern philosophy and analytic geometry
  • César-Mansuète Despretz (1791–1863) – chemist and physicist who investigated latent heat, the elasticity of vapors, the compressibility of liquids, and the density of gases[29]
  • Johann Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet (1805–1859) – mathematician who contributed to number theory and was one of the first to give the modern formal definition of a function
  • Peter Dodson (1946–) – American paleontologist at the University of Pennsylvania; co-editor of The Dinosauria, widely considered the definitive scholarly reference on dinosaurs
  • Ignacy Domeyko (1802–1889) – Polish scientist who made major contributions to the study of Chile's geography, geology, and mineralogy
  • Christian Doppler (1803–1853) – Austrian physicist and mathematician who enunciated the Doppler effect
  • Pierre Duhem (1861–1916) – historian of science who made important contributions to hydrodynamics, elasticity, and thermodynamics
  • Félix Dujardin (1801–1860) – biologist remembered for his research on protozoans and other invertebrates; became a devout Catholic later in life and was known to read The Imitation of Christ[30]
  • Jean-Baptiste Dumas (1800–1884) – chemist who established new values for the atomic mass of thirty elements
  • André Dumont (1809–1857) – Belgian geologist who prepared the first geological map of Belgium and named many of the subdivisions of the Cretaceous and Tertiary[31]
  • Charles Dupin (1784–1873) – mathematician who discovered the Dupin cyclide and the Dupin indicatrix[32]


  • John Eccles (1903–1997) – awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work on the synapse[33]
  • Stephan Endlicher (1804–1849) – botanist who formulated a major system of plant classification
  • Bartolomeo Eustachi (c.1500–1574) – one of the founders of human anatomy




  • Samuel Stehman Haldeman (1812–1880) – American naturalist and convert to Catholicism who researched fresh-water mollusks, the human voice, Amerindian dialects, and the organs of sound of insects
  • Jean Baptiste Julien d'Omalius d'Halloy (1783–1875) – one of the pioneers of modern geology[39]
  • Morgan Hebard (1887–1946) – American entomologist who described over 800 new species of orthopteroids and compiled an entomological collection of over 250,000 specimens
  • Eduard Heis (1806–1877) – astronomer who contributed the first true delineation of the Milky Way
  • Jan Baptist van Helmont (1579–1644) – founder of pneumatic chemistry
  • Victor Franz Hess (1883-1964) - an Austrian-American physicist, and Nobel laureate in physics, who discovered cosmic rays.
  • George de Hevesy (1885–1966) – Hungarian radiochemist and Nobel laureate[40]
  • Charles Hermite (1822–1901) – mathematician who did research on number theory, quadratic forms, elliptic functions, and algebra
  • John Philip Holland (1840–1914) – developed the first submarine to be formally commissioned by the US Navy





  • René Laennec (1781–1826) – physician who invented the stethoscope
  • Joseph Louis Lagrange (1736–1813) – mathematician and astronomer known for Lagrangian points and Lagrangian mechanics
  • Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829) – French naturalist, biologist and academic whose theories on evolution preceded those of Darwin
  • Johann von Lamont (1805–1879) – astronomer and physicist who studied the magnetism of the Earth and was the first to calculate the mass of Uranus
  • Karl Landsteiner (1868–1943) – Nobel Prize winner who identified and classified the human blood types
  • Pierre André Latreille (1762–1833) – pioneer in entomology
  • Antoine Lavoisier (1743–1794) – father of modern chemistry[44]
  • Claude-Nicolas Le Cat (1700–1768) – invented or perfected several instruments for lithotomy and was one of the first adherents of a mechanistic approach to physiology[45]
  • Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707–1788) – one of the pioneers of natural history, especially through his monumental Histoire Naturelle
  • Xavier Le Pichon (1937– ) – French geophysicist; known for his comprehensive model of plate tectonics, helping create the field of plate tectonics
  • Jérôme Lejeune (1926–1994) – pediatrician and geneticist, best known for his discovery of the link of diseases to chromosome abnormalities
  • Jacques Jean Lhermitte (1877–1959) – French neurologist and neuropsychiatrist; clinical director at the Salpêtrière Hospital
  • Karl August Lossen (1841–1893) – geologist who mapped and described the Harz Mountains[46]
  • Jonathan Lunine (1959–) – planetary scientist at the forefront of research into planet formation, evolution, and habitability; serves as vice-president of the Society of Catholic Scientists[47]



  • John von Neumann (1903–1957) – Hungarian-born American mathematician and polymath[57] who converted to Catholicism[58]
  • Charles Nicolle (1866–1936) – French bacteriologist who received the 1928 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his identification of lice as the transmitter of epidemic typhus; came back to the Catholic Church at the end of his life
  • Martin Nowak (1965–) – evolutionary theorist and Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University; serves on the board of the Society of Catholic Scientists[47]


  • Karin Öberg (1982–) – her Öberg Astrochemistry Group discovered the first complex organic molecule in a protoplanetary disk; serves on the board of the Society of Catholic Scientists[47]
  • Abraham Ortelius (1527–1598) – created the first modern atlas and theorized on continental drift
  • Jean-Michel Oughourlian (1940- ) – Armenian-French neuropsychiatrist and psychologist; President of the Association of Doctors of the American Hospital of Paris; honorary member of the Association Recherches Mimétiques


  • Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) – French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and philosopher
  • Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) – father of bacteriology[3][59]
  • Christopher J. Payne (1988–) – biology professor at Malone University and long-term forest ecologist[60]
  • Pierre Joseph Pelletier (1788–1842) – co-discovered strychnine, caffeine, quinine, cinchonine, among many other discoveries in chemistry[61]
  • Georg von Peuerbach (1423–1461) – called the father of mathematical and observational astronomy in the West[62]
  • Gabrio Piola (1794–1850) – Italian physicist and mathematician who made fundamental contributions to continuum mechanics
  • Michael Polanyi (1891–1976) – Hungarian polymath, made contributions to physical chemistry, economics, and philosophy
  • Giambattista della Porta (1535–1615) – Italian polymath, made contributions to agriculture, hydraulics, military engineering, and pharmacology
  • Vladimir Prelog (1906–1998) – Croatian-Swiss organic chemist, winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize for chemistry
  • Pierre Puiseux (1855–1928) – French astronomer who created a photographic atlas of the Moon











See also[edit]


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  3. ^ a b Vallery-Radot, Maurice (1994). Pasteur. Paris: Perrin. pp. 377–407.
  4. ^ a b "Gli scienziati cattolici che hanno fatto lItalia". Zenit. Archived from the original on 2013-04-16. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  5. ^ George Agricola
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  11. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Joachim Barrande".
  12. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Giambattista Belzoni".
  13. ^ The Catholic world. 1865–1971.
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  19. ^ Cyranoski, David (13 January 2016). "Taiwan's SARS hero poised to be vice-president". Nature. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
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  22. ^ Mateo Realdo Colombo
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