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date: 24 November 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Jesuit scholars took part in all the major scientific controversies in the field of astronomy and cosmology, and taught generations of philosophers in Europe. Jesuit missionaries disseminated novelties of Western astronomy as far as China and Japan. Historians have tended to perceive Jesuit astronomers as a homogeneous group, unified by a common religious program. This chapter challenges that view and argues that Jesuit scholarship evolved from defending a traditional Aristotelian-Ptolemaic worldview to advocacy of a Tychonic cosmology, and eventually supporting, in some cases, a Newtonian view of the universe. Jesuit astronomers and philosophers also disagreed among themselves on fundamental questions. In a word, there was no “Jesuit astronomy”. However, this learned community was particularly affected by official efforts to maintain doctrinal uniformity, as the debate on Copernicanism demonstrates. Although those institutional constraints did not fossilize Jesuit astronomical learning, they contributed to diverting it away from the scientific mainstream.

Keywords: astronomy, cosmology, Christoph Clavius, Roberto Bellarmino, Aristotle, Copernicanism, Tycho Brahe, Athanasius Kircher, Roger Joseph Boscovich, confessionalization of science

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