Religious Affiliations of Significant Scientists II

Depending on the time of history that they lived, religion played an important role in influencing the study and beliefs of significant figures in history. For some, their religious beliefs clashed with the field of science that they studied. In this article, you will learn about one scientist that had to deal with this type of conflict.

Albert Einstein

Born in Germany in 1879, Albert Einstein became known as one of the most recognizable of scientists in history. After studying theoretical physics, he developed the theory of general relativity, which catapulted the advancement of physics. This achievement earned Einstein the nickname of the ‘father of modern physics’. He is considered one of the most prolific intellectuals in history and many people associated him with the formula for mass-energy equivalence , E = mc2 . For his work, Einstein brought home a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. Einstein was Jewish and would sometimes speak of the Jewish faith in speeches to the public.

Louis Pasteur

A French chemist and microbiologist named Louis Pasteur is responsible for pushing the envelope in studying the causes and preventions of diseases. His concentration was on the germ theory of disease and he centered his experiments on the subject. One of his greatest achievements was developing the process of pasteurization, which stopped the spread of sickness from drinking contaminated or spoiled milk and wine. He also created the first vaccines to treat rabies and anthrax, and his work led to a decrease in mortality rates associated with puerperal fever. For his contributions to the world of science, he is viewed as one of the three primary founders of microbiology. He also made strides in chemistry with a handful of discoveries under his belt. Pasteur was a Catholic. His grandson once wrote that he had “only kept from his Catholic background a spiritualism without religious practice,” but others (including his son-in-law) say that he remained a passionate Christian throughout his entire life.

Galileo Galilee

Born in 1564, Galileo Galilee was an Italian physicist, mathematician, philosopher and astronomer who was quite active during the Scientific Revolution. With his accomplishments, he helped improve the efficiency of the telescope and would provide information that helped future astronomers. His work earned him a few nicknames, such as the “father of modern observational astronomy” and the ‘father of modern science.” He used his observations to confirm the phases of Venus, discover the four largest satellites of Jupiter, and create a better understanding of sunspots.

Galileo was a Catholic and during his time, the Church was at odds with many of the theories and writings that dealt with astronomy. The Catholic Church would discredit certain readings (such as De revolutionibus orbium coelestium , 1616 and Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems – 1633) and place them on a list of prohibited books.