The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Proverbs 1:7
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 14: 1
The following list is not a head count, as if numbers or percentages of scientists believing in God or not believing alone prove anything. But these quotes do give powerful evidence that early science was built on seeking to understand the universe as the product of an intelligent and reasonable Mind. The post to follow will give evidence that multitudes of scientists, after a century’s lapse, have been coming back to that presupposition.
Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543)
“To know the mighty works of God, to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful workings of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more grateful than knowledge.”
—Copernicus, the mathematician and astronomer who formulated a heliocentric model of the universe, as cited in The Language of God by Francis Collins.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1627)
“God never wrought miracle to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion. For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity.”
Known as the founder of the scientific method, Bacon believed that gathering and analyzing data in an organized way was essential to scientific progress. An Anglican, Bacon believed in the existence of God and was committed to the service of country, the discovery of truth, and the service of church. While his goal as a philosopher was based on experimentation and reasoning, he denounced atheism, believing it is the result of insufficient depth of philosophy.
Galileo Galilei (1564- 1642)
“The ultimate reason of things must lie in a necessary substance, in which the differentiation of the changes only exists eminently as in their source; and this is what we call God.”
“Whence it follows that God is absolutely perfect, since perfection is nothing but magnitude of positive reality, in the strict sense, setting aside the limits or bounds in things which are limited.”
Leibniz was a German mathematician who founded calculus (concurrently with Isaac Newton). He also made major contributions to physics and technology. He created the Stepped Reckoner and his Protogaea concerns geology and natural history. He was a philosopher who developed the philosophical theory of the Pre-established harmony; he is also most noted for his optimism, e.g., his conclusion that our Universe is, in a restricted sense, the best possible one that God could have created. He was a Lutheran who worked with convert to Catholicism John Frederick, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg in hopes of a reunification between Catholicism and Lutheranism.
Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
Yet even in earthly matters I believe that “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead,” and I have never seen anything incompatible between those things of man which can be known by the spirit of man which is within him, and those higher things concerning his future, which he cannot know by that spirit.
Faraday was an English scientist who contributed to the story of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis. Faraday was a very humble man, rejecting a knighthood and twice refusing the presidency of the Royal Society. He was an active elder in his church throughout his life, and although Faraday considered religion and science to be “two distinct things,” he did not see them as conflicting with one another. [See quote above]
Maria Mitchell (1818 – 1889)
(NYPL/Science Source via Getty Images)
“Scientific investigations, pushed on and on, will reveal new ways in which God works, and bring us deeper revelations of the wholly unknown.” –Maria Mitchell, after hearing a minister preach about the dangers of science
Maria Mitchell was America’s first female astronomer and the first woman to be named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was born into a Quaker family, but began to question her denomination’s teachings in her twenties. She was eventually disowned from membership and for the rest of her life, didn’t put much importance on church doctrines or attendance. Instead, she was a religious seeker who pursued a simpler sort of faith.
Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
“Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection in various forms. He appeared to Mary Magdalene so that they might take him for a gardener. Very ingeniously these manifestation of Jesus is to our minds difficult to penetrate. (He appears) as a gardener. The gardener plants seedlings in prepared soil. The soil must exert a physical and chemical influence so that the seed of the plant can grow. Yet this is not sufficient. The warmth and light of the sun must be added, together with rain, in order that growth may result. The seed of supernatural life, of sanctifying grace, cleanses from sin, so preparing the soul of man, and man must seek to preserve this life by his good works. He still needs the supernatural food, the body of the Lord, which received continually, develops and brings to completion of the life. So natural and supernatural must unite to the realization of the holiness to the people. Man must contribute his minimum work of toil, and God gives the growth. Truly, the seed, the talent, the grace of God is there, and man has simply to work, take the seeds to bring them to the bankers. So that we “may have life, and abundantly“.
Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian Abbot considered the “father of modern genetics” for his study of the inheritance of traits in pea plants. He preached sermons at Church, one of which deals with how Easter represents Christ’s victory over death (excerpt above).
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)
“The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. Science brings men nearer to God.”
“In good philosophy, the word cause ought to be reserved to the single Divine impulse that has formed the universe.”
“A little science estranges men from God but much science leads them back to Him.” (Also said by or at least attributed to Francis Bacon.)
Louis Pasteur was a French biologist, microbiologist and chemist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization. He was the founder of microbiology and immunology. Pasteur was a devout Christian.
William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (1824-1907)
“We are all out of our depth when we approach the subject of life. The scientific man, in looking at a piece of dead matter, thinking over the results of certain combinations which he can impose upon it, is himself a living miracle, proving that there is something beyond that mass of dead matter of which he is thinking. His very thought is in itself a contradiction to the idea that there is nothing in existence but dead matter.” William Thomson
The Kelvin scale is an absolute thermodynamic temperature scale using as its null point absolute zero, the temperature at which all thermal motion ceases in the classical description of thermodynamics. It is named after the Belfast-born, Glasgow University engineer and physicist William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, who wrote of the need for an “absolute thermometric scale”.
Thomson remained a devout believer in Christianity throughout his life; attendance at chapel was part of his daily routine. He saw his Christian faith as supporting and informing his scientific work, as is evident from his address to the annual meeting of the Christian Evidence Society, 23 May 1889 [above].
More scientists who were Christians–from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christians_in_science_and_technology:
Before the eighteenth century
- Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179): also known as Saint Hildegard and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German Benedictine abbess. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.
- Robert Grosseteste (c.1175–1253): Bishop of Lincoln, he was the central character of the English intellectual movement in the first half of the 13th century and is considered the founder of scientific thought in Oxford. He had a great interest in the natural world and wrote texts on the mathematical sciences of optics, astronomy and geometry. He affirmed that experiments should be used in order to verify a theory, testing its consequences and added greatly to the development of the scientific method.
- Abertus Magnus (c.1193–1280): Patron saint of scientists in Catholicism who may have been the first to isolate arsenic. He wrote that: “Natural science does not consist in ratifying what others have said, but in seeking the causes of phenomena.” Yet he rejected elements of Aristotelianism that conflicted with Catholicism and drew on his faith as well as Neo-Platonic ideas to “balance” “troubling” Aristotelian elements.
- Jean Buridan (1300–58): was a French philosopher and priest. One of his most significant contributions to science was the development of the theory of impetus, that explained the movement of projectiles and objects in free-fall. This theory gave way to the dynamics of Galileo Galilei and for Isaac Newton‘s famous principle of Inertia.
- Nicole Oresme (c.1323–1382): Theologian and bishop of Lisieux, he was one of the early founders and popularizers of modern sciences. One of his many scientific contributions is the discovery of the curvature of light through atmospheric refraction.
- Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464): Catholic cardinal and theologian who made contributions to the field of mathematics by developing the concepts of the infinitesimal and of relative motion. His philosophical speculations also anticipated Copernicus’ heliocentric world-view.
- Otto Brunfels (1488–1534): A theologian and botanist from Mainz, Germany. His Catalogi virorum illustrium is considered to be the first book on the history of evangelical sects that had broken away from the Catholic Church. In botany his Herbarum vivae icones helped earn him acclaim as one of the “fathers of botany”.
- William Turner (c.1508–1568): He is sometimes called the “father of English botany” and was also an ornithologist. Religiously he was arrested for preaching in favor of the Reformation. He later became a Dean of Wells Cathedral, but was expelled for nonconformity.
- Ignazio Danti (1536–1586): As bishop of Alatri he convoked a diocesan synod to deal with abuses. He was also a mathematician who wrote on Euclid, an astronomer, and a designer of mechanical devices.
- Francis Bacon (1561–1626): [See above]
- Galileo Galilei (1564–1642): [See above]
- Laurentius Gothus (1565–1646): A professor of astronomy and Archbishop of Uppsala. He wrote on astronomy and theology.
- Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655): Catholic priest who tried to reconcile Atomism with Christianity. He also published the first work on the Transit of Mercury and corrected the geographical coordinates of the Mediterranean Sea.
- Anton Maria of Rheita (1597–1660): Capuchin astronomer. He dedicated one of his astronomy books to Jesus Christ, a “theo-astronomy” work was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he wondered if beings on other planets were “cursed by original sin like humans are.”
- Blaise Pascal (1623–1662): [See above]
- Nicolas Steno (1638–1686): Lutheran convert to Catholicism, his beatification in that faith occurred in 1987. As a scientist he is considered a pioneer in both anatomy and geology, but largely abandoned science after his religious conversion.
- Isaac Barrow (1630–1677): English theologian, scientist, and mathematician. He wrote Expositions of the Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, Decalogue, and Sacraments and Lectiones Opticae et Geometricae.
- Juan Lobkowitz (1606–1682): Cistercian monk who did work on Combinatorics and published astronomy tables at age 10. He also did works of theology and sermons.
- Seth Ward (1617–1689): Anglican Bishop of Salisbury and Savilian Chair of Astronomy from 1649–1661. He wrote Ismaelis Bullialdi astro-nomiae philolaicae fundamenta inquisitio brevis and Astronomia geometrica. He also had a theological/philosophical dispute with Thomas Hobbes and as a bishop was severe toward nonconformists.
- Robert Boyle (1627–1691): Prominent scientist and theologian who argued that the study of science could improve glorification of God. A strong Christian apologist, he is considered one of the most important figures in the history of Chemistry.
- Isaac Newton (1643–1727): [See above]
- Johannes Kepler (1571–1630): [See above]
1701–1800 A.D. (18th century)
- John Ray (1627–1705): English botanist who wrote The Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of the Creation. (1691) The John Ray Initiative of Environment and Christianity is also named for him.
- Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716): [See above]
- Stephen Hales (1677–1761): Copley Medal winning scientist significant to the study of plant physiology. As an inventor designed a type of ventilation system, a means to distill sea-water, ways to preserve meat, etc. In religion he was an Anglican curate who worked with the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge and for a group working to convert black slaves in the West Indies.
- Firmin Abauzit (1679–1767): physicist and theologian. He translated the New Testament into French and corrected an error in Newton’s Principia.
- Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772): He did a great deal of scientific research with the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences having commissioned work by him. His religious writing is the basis of Swedenborgianism and several of his theological works contained some science hypotheses, most notably the Nebular hypothesis for the origin of the Solar System.
- Albrecht von Haller (1708–1777): Swiss anatomist, physiologist known as “the father of modern physiology.” A Protestant, he was involved in the erection of the Reformed church in Göttingen, and, as a man interested in religious questions, he wrote apologetic letters which were compiled by his daughter under the name.
- Leonhard Euler (1707–1783): significant mathematician and physicist, see List of topics named after Leonhard Euler. The son of a pastor, he wrote Defense of the Divine Revelation against the Objections of the Freethinkers and is also commemorated by the Lutheran Church on their Calendar of Saints on May 24.
- Antoine Lavoisier (1743–1794): considered the “father of modern chemistry”. He is known for his discovery of oxygen’s role in combustion, developing chemical nomenclature, developing a preliminary periodic table of elements, and the law of conservation of mass. He was a Catholic and defender of scripture.
- Herman Boerhaave (1668–1789): remarkable Dutch physician and botanist known as the founder of clinical teaching. A collection of his religious thoughts on medicine, translated from Latin into English, has been compiled under the name Boerhaaveìs Orations
- John Michell (1724–1793): English clergyman who provided pioneering insights in a wide range of scientific fields, including astronomy, geology, optics, and gravitation.
- Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718–1799): mathematician appointed to a position by Pope Benedict XIV. After her father died she devoted her life to religious studies, charity, and ultimately became a nun
- Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778): Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, “father of modern taxonomy”.
1801–1900 A.D. (19th century)
- Joseph Priestley (1733–1804): Nontrinitarianim clergyman who wrote the controversial work History of the Corruptions of Christianity. He is credited with discovering oxygen.
- Alessandro Volta (1745–1827): Italian physicist who invented the first electric battery. The unit Volt was named after him.
- Samuel Vince (1749–1821): Cambridge astronomer and clergyman. He wrote Observations on the Theory of the Motion and Resistance of Fluids and The credibility of Christianity vindicated, in answer to Mr. Hume’s objections. He won the Copley Medal in 1780, before the period dealt with here ended.
- Isaac Milner (1750–1820): Lucasian Professor of Mathematics known for work on an important process to fabricate Nitrous acid. He was also an evangelical Anglican who co-wrote Ecclesiastical History of the Church of Christ with his brother and played a role in the religious awakening of William Wilberforce. He also led to William Frend being expelled from Cambridge for a purported attack by Frend on religion.
- William Kirby (1759–1850): A Parson-naturalist who wrote On the Power Wisdom and Goodness of God. As Manifested in the Creation of Animals and in Their History, Habits and Instincts and was a founding figure in British entomology.
- Georges Cuvier (1769–1832): French naturalist and zoologist, sometimes referred to as the “father of paleontology”.
- Andre Marie Ampere (1775–1836): one of the founders of classical electromagnetism. The unit for electric current, Ampere, is named after him.
- Olinthus Gregory (1774–1841): he wrote Lessons Astronomical and Philosophical in 1793 and became mathematical master at the Royal Military Academy in 1802. An abridgment of his 1815 Letters on the Evidences of Christianity was done by the Religious Tract Society.
- John Abercrombie (1780–1844): Scottish physician and Christian philosopher who created the a textbook about neuropathology.
- William Buckland (1784–1856): Anglican priest/geologist who wrote Vindiciae Geologiae; or the Connexion of Geology with Religion explained. He was born in 1784, but his scientific life did not begin before the period discussed herein.
- Mary Anning (1799–1847): paleontologist who became known for discoveries of certain fossils in Lyme Regis, Dorset. Anning was devoutly religious, and attended a Congregational, then Anglican church.
- Marshall Hall (1790–1857): notable English physiologist who contributed with anatomical understanding and proposed a number of techniques in medical science. A devout Christian, his religious thoughts were collected in the biographical book Memoirs of Marshall Hall, by his widow (1861). He was also an abolitionist who opposed slavery on religious grounds. He believed slavery to be a sin against God and denial of the Christian faith.
- Lars Levi Læstadius (1800–1861): botanist who started a revival movement within Lutheranism called Laestadianism. This movement is among the strictest forms of Lutheranism. As a botanist he has the author citation Laest and discovered four species.
- Edward Hitchcock (1793–1864): geologist, paleontologist, and Congregationalist pastor. He worked on Natural theology and wrote on fossilized tracks.
- Benjamin Silliman (1779–1864): chemist and science educator at Yale; the first person to distill petroleum, and a founder of the American Journal of Science, the oldest scientific journal in the United States. An outspoken Christian, he was an old-earth creationist who openly rejected materialism.
- Bernhard Riemann (1826–1866): son of a pastor, [note 4] he entered the University of Göttingen at the age of 19, originally to study philology and theology in order to become a pastor and help with his family’s finances. Changed to mathematics upon the suggestion of Gauss. He made lasting contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, and differential geometry, some of them enabling the later development of general relativity.
- William Whewell (1794–1866): professor of mineralogy and moral philosophy. He wrote An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics in 1819 and Astronomy and General Physics considered with reference to Natural Theology in 1833. He is the wordsmith who coined the terms “scientist”, “physicist”, “anode”, “cathode” and many other commonly used scientific words.
- Michael Faraday (1791–1867): [See above]
- James David Forbes (1809–1868): physicist and glaciologist who worked extensively on the conduction of heat and seismology. He was a devout Christian as can be seen in the work “Life and Letters of James David Forbes” (1873).
- Charles Babbage (1791–1871): mathematician and analytical philosopher known as the first computer scientist who originated the idea of a programmable computer. He wrote the Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, and the Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864) where he raised arguments to rationally defend the belief in miracles.
- Adam Sedgwick (1785–1873): Anglican priest and geologist whose, A Discourse on the Studies of the University discusses the relationship of God and man. In science he won both the Copley Medal and the Wollaston Medal.
- John Bachman (1790–1874): wrote numerous scientific articles and named several species of animals. He also was a founder of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and wrote works on Lutheranism.
- Temple Chevallier (1794–1873): Priest and astronomer who did Of the proofs of the divine power and wisdom derived from the study of astronomy. He also founded the Durham University Observatory, hence the Durham Shield is pictured.
- Robert Main (1808–1878): Anglican priest who won the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1858. Robert Main also preached at the British Association of Bristol.
- James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879): Although Clerk as a boy was taken to Presbyterian services by his father and to Anglican services by his aunt, while still a young student at Cambridge he underwent an Evangelical conversion that he described as having given him a new perception of the Love of God.[note 5] Maxwell’s evangelicalism “committed him to an anti-positivist position.” He is known for his contributions in establishing electromagnetic theory (Maxwell’s Equations) and work on the chemical kinetic theory of gases.
- James Bovell (1817–1880): Canadian physician and microscopist who was member of Royal College of Physicians. He was the mentor of William Osler, as well as an Anglican minister and religious author who wrote about natural theology.
- Andrew Pritchard (1804–1882): English naturalist and natural history dealer who made significant improvements to microscopy and wrote the standard work on aquatic micro-organisms. He devoted much energy to the chapel he attended, Newington Green Unitarian Church.
- Gregor Mendel (1822–1884): [See above]
- Lewis Carroll (1832–1898): [real name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson], English writer, mathematician, and Anglican deacon. Robbins’ and Rumsey’s investigation of Dodgson’s method, a method of evaluating determinants, led them to the Alternating Sign Matrix conjecture, now a theorem.
- Heinrich Hertz (1857–1894): German physicist who first conclusively proved the existence of the electromagnetic waves.
- Philip Henry Gosse (1810–1888): Marine biologist who wrote Aquarium (1854), and A Manual of Marine Zoology (1855–56). He is more famous, or infamous, as a Christian Fundamentalist who coined the idea of Omphalos (theology).
- Asa Gray (1810–1888): His Gray’s Manual remains a pivotal work in botany. His Darwiniana has sections titled “Natural selection not inconsistent with Natural theology”, “Evolution and theology”, and “Evolutionary teleology.” The preface indicates his adherence to the Nicene Creed in concerning these religious issues.
- Julian Tenison Woods (1832–1889): co-founder of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart who won a Clarke Medal shortly before death. A picture from Waverley Cemetery, where he’s buried, is shown.
- Louis Pasteur (1822-1895): [See above]
- James Dwight Dana (1813–1895): geologist, mineralogist, and zoologist. He received the Copley Medal, Wollaston Medal, and the Clarke Medal. He also wrote a book titled Science and the Bible and his faith has been described as “both orthodox and intense.”
- James Prescott Joule (1818–1889): Joule studied the nature of heat, and discovered its relationship to mechanical work. This led to the law of conservation of energy, which led to the development of the first law of thermodynamics. The SI derived unit of energy, the joule, is named after James Joule.
- John William Dawson (1820–1899): Canadian geologist who was the first President of the Royal Society of Canada and served as President of both the British and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A presbyterian, he spoke against Darwin’s theory and came to write The Origin of the World, According to Revelation and Science (1877) where he put together his theological and scientific views.
- Armand David (1826–1900): Catholic missionary to China and member of the Lazarists who considered his religious duties to be his principal concern. He was also a botanist with the author abbreviation David and as a zoologist he described several species new to the West.