Pontifical Academy of Sciences

Pontifical Academy of Sciences

The Pontifical Academy of Sciences was founded by the Roman Catholic Church in 1936 under its current name by Pope Pius XI and is placed under the protection of the reigning Supreme Pontiff (the current Pope). Its aim is to promote the progress of the mathematical, physical and natural sciences and the study of related epistemological problems. The Academy has its origins in the Accademia dei Lincei ("Academy of Lynxes") established in Rome in 1603, under Pope Clement VIII by the learned Roman Prince, Federico Cesi (1585-1630) who was a young botanist and naturalist, and which claimed Galileo Galilei as its president. The current president is the physicist Nicola Cabibbo. The Academy is headquartered in the Casina Pio IV at the heart of the Vatican Gardens.The academy holds a membership roster of the most respected names in 20th century science, many of them nobel laureates including Stephen Hawking and Charles Hard Townes.

Historical Background

Cesi wanted his Academicians to create a method of research based upon observation, experiment, and the inductive method. He thus called this Academy "dei Lincei" because the scientists which adhered to it had to have eyes as sharp as lynxes (the lynx is a large cat) in order to penetrate the secrets of nature, observing it at both microscopic and macroscopic levels. The leader of the first academy was the famous scientist Galileo Galilei. It was dissolved after the death of its founder and re-created by Pope Pius IX in 1847 and given the name "Accademia Pontificia dei Nuovi Lincei" ("Pontifical Academy of the New Lynxes"), and was re-founded in 1936 by Pope Pius XI and given its current name. Pope Paul VI in 1976 and Pope John Paul II in 1986 subsequently updated its statutes.

Since 1936 the Pontifical Academy of Sciences has been concerned both with investigating specific scientific subjects belonging to individual disciplines and with the promotion of interdisciplinary co-operation. It has progressively increased the number of its Academicians and the international character of its membership. The Academy is an independent body within the Holy See and enjoys freedom of research. From the statutes of 1976:

:"The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has as its goal the promotion of the progress of the mathematical, physical and natural sciences, and the study of related epistemological questions and issues."

Work of the Academy

Since the Academy and its membership is not influenced by factors of a national, political, or religious character it represents a valuable source of objective scientific information which is made available to the Holy See and to the international scientific community. Today the work of the Academy covers six main areas:

:(a) fundamental science,:(b) the science and technology of global questions and issues,:(c) science in favor of the problems of the Third World,:(d) the ethics and politics of science,:(e) bioethics,:(f) epistemology.

The disciplines involved are sub-divided into nine fields: the disciplines of physics and related disciplines; astronomy; chemistry; the earth and environmental sciences; the life sciences (botany, agronomy, zoology, genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, the neurosciences, surgery); mathematics; the applied sciences; and the philosophy and history of sciences.

Members of the Academy

The new members of the Academy are elected by the body of Academicians and chosen from men and women of every race and religion based on the high scientific value of their activities and their high moral profile. They are then officially appointed by the Roman Pontiff. The Academy is governed by a President, appointed from its members by the Pope, who is helped by a scientific Council and by the Chancellor. Initially made up of 80 Academicians, 70 who were appointed for life, in 1986 John Paul II raised the number of members for life to 80, side by side with a limited number of Honorary Academicians chosen because they are highly qualified figures, and others who are Academicians because of the posts they hold, including: the Chancellor of the Academy, the Director of the Vatican Observatory, the Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library, and the Prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives.

Current ordinary members

Werner Arber

David Baltimore

Antonio M. Battro

Gary Becker

Daniel A. Bekoe

Paul Berg

Enrico Berti

Günter Blobel

Aage Niels Bohr

Thierry Boon-Falleur

Nicola Cabibbo

Luís Angel Caffarelli

Luigi Cavalli-Sforza

Aaron Ciechanover

Claude Cohen-Tannoudji

Bernardo M. Colombo

Suzanne Cory

Hector R. Croxatto

Paul J. Crutzen

Christian de Duve

Manfred Eigen

Albert Eschenmoser

Antonio García-Bellido

Paul Germain

Takashi Gojobori

Theodor Hänsch

Stephen Hawking

Michał Heller

Raymond Hide

Fotis C. Kafatos

Krishnaswami Kasturirangan

Vladimir I. Keilis-Borok

Har G. Khorana

Klaus von Klitzing

Nicole Marthe Le Douarin

Tsung-Dao Lee

Yuan Tseh Lee

Jean-Marie Lehn

Pierre J. Léna

Rita Levi-Montalcini

Félix Wa Kalenga Malu

Jurij Ivanovič Manin

Mambillikalathil Govind Kumar Menon

Beatrice Mintz

Jürgen Mittelstrass

Mario J. Molina

Marcos Moshinsky

Rudolf Ludwig Mössbauer

Rudolf Muradian

Joseph Edward Murray

Marshall Warren Nirenberg

Sergej Petrovič Novikov

Ryoji Noyori

Czeslaw Olech

George Emil Palade

Crodowaldo Pavan

William D. Phillips

John Charles Polanyi

Ingo Potrykus

Frank Press

Yves Quéré

Veerabhadran Ramanathan

Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao

Peter H. Raven

Martin J. Rees

Alexander Rich

Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe

Carlo Rubbia

Vera Rubin

Roald Z. Sagdeev

Michael Sela

Maxine F. Singer

Wolf J. Singer

Govind Swarup

Andrzej Szczeklik

Walter E. Thirring

Charles Hard Townes

Hans Tuppy

Rafael Vicuña

Chen Ning Yang

Edward Witten

Ahmed H. Zewail

Antonino Zichichi

Current honorary members

Georges M.M. Cottier

Stanley L. Jaky

Jean-Michel Maldamé

Carlo Maria Martini

Robert J. White

Curent members "perdurante munere"

José G. Funes

Sergio B. Pagano

Cesare Pasini

Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo

Nobel Prize Members

During its various decades of activity, the Academy has had a number of Nobel Prize winners amongst its members, many of whom were appointed Academicians before they received this prestigious international award. These include:

:Ernest Rutherford (Chemistry, 1908) :Guglielmo Marconi (Physics, 1909) :Alexis Carrel (Physiology, 1912) :Max von Laue (Physics, 1914) :Max Planck (Physics, 1918) :Niels Bohr (Physics, 1922) :Werner Heisenberg (Physics, 1932) :Paul Dirac (Physics, 1933) :Erwin Schrödinger (Physics, 1933) :Peter J.W. Debye (Chemistry, 1936):Otto Hahn (Chemistry, 1944):Sir Alexander Fleming (Physiology, 1945) :Chen Ning Yang and Tsung-Dao Lee (Physics, 1957) :Joshua Lederberg (Physiology, 1958):Rudolf Mössbauer (Physics, 1961) :Max F. Perutz (Chemistry, 1962) :John Carew Eccles (Physiology, 1963) :Charles H. Townes (Physics, 1964) :Manfred Eigen and George Porter (Chemistry, 1967) :Har Gobind Khorana and Marshall W. Nirenberg (Physiology, 1968) :Christian de Duve (Physiology, 1974) :George Emil Palade (Physiology, 1974) :David Baltimore (Physiology, 1975) :Aage Bohr (Physics, 1975) :Abdus Salam (Physics, 1979) :Paul Berg (Chemistry, 1980) :Kai Siegbahn (Physics, 1981) :Sune Bergstrom (Physiology, 1982) :Carlo Rubbia (Physics, 1984) :Klaus von Klitzing (Physics, 1985):Rita Levi-Montalcini (Physiology, 1986) :John C. Polanyi (Chemistry, 1986):Yuan Tseh Lee (Chemistry, 1986) :Jean-Marie Lehn (Chemistry, 1987) :Joseph E. Murray (Physiology, 1990) :Gary S. Becker (Economics, 1992) :Paul J. Crutzen and Mario J. Molina (Chemistry, 1995) :Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (Physics, 1997) :Ahmed H. Zewail (Chemistry, 1999):Günter Blobel (Physiology, 1999):Ryoji Noyori (Chemistry, 2001):Aaron Ciechanover (Chemistry, 2004) Other eminent Academicians include Padre Agostino Gemelli (1878-1959), founder of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and President of the Academy after its re-foundation until 1959, and Mons. Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966), one of the fathers of contemporary cosmology who held the office of President from 1960 to 1966, and Brazilian neuroscientist Carlos Chagas Filho.

Goals and Hopes of the Academy

The goals and hopes of the Academy were expressed by Pope Pius XI in the "Motu Proprio" which brought about its re-foundation in 1936:

:"Amongst the many consolations with which divine Goodness has wished to make happy the years of our Pontificate, I am happy to place that of our having being able to see not a few of those who dedicate themselves to the studies of the sciences mature their attitude and their intellectual approach towards religion. Science, when it is real cognition, is never in contrast with the truth of the Christian faith. Indeed, as is well known to those who study the history of science, it must be recognized on the one hand that the Roman Pontiffs and the Catholic Church have always fostered the research of the learned in the experimental field as well, and on the other hand that such research has opened up the way to the defense of the deposit of supernatural truths entrusted to the Church....We promise again that it is our strongly-held intention, that the 'Pontifical Academicians' through their work and our Institution, work ever more and ever more effectively for the progress of the sciences. Of them we do not ask anything else, since in this praiseworthy intent and this noble work in that service in favor of the truth that we expect of them." (Pius XI)

Forty years later (10 November 1979), John Paul II once again emphasized the role and goals of the Academy, on the 100th anniversary (centenary) of the birth of Albert Einstein:

:"...the existence of this Pontifical Academy of Sciences, of which in its ancient ancestry Galileo was a member and of which today eminent scientists are members, without any form of ethnic or religious discrimination, is a visible sign, raised amongst the peoples of the world, of the profound harmony that can exist between the truths of science and the truths of faith.....The Church of Rome together with all the Churches spread throughout the world, attributes a great importance to the function of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The title of 'Pontifical' given to the Academy means, as you know, the interest and the commitment of the Church, in different forms from the ancient patronage, but no less profound and effective in character....How could the Church have lacked interest in the most noble of the occupations which are most strictly human -- the search for truth?"

:"....Both believing scientists and non-believing scientists are involved in deciphering the palimpsest of nature which has been built in a rather complex way, where the traces of the different stages of the long evolution of the world have been covered over and mixed up. The believer, perhaps, has the advantage of knowing that the puzzle has a solution, that the underlying writing is in the final analysis the work of an intelligent being, and that thus the problem posed by nature has been posed to be solved and that its difficulty is without doubt proportionate to the present or future capacity of humanity. This, perhaps, will not give him new resources for the investigation engaged in. But it will contribute to maintaining him in that healthy optimism without which a sustained effort cannot be engaged in for long." (John Paul II)

At the time of the Pope's October 1996 Statement on Evolution to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 26 of the 80 members (nearly one-third) of the Academy were holders of the Nobel Prize.


Based on [http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdscien/400_ann/storia_en_qxd.pdf The Pontifical Academy of Sciences: A Historical Profile] (in PDF)

External links

* [http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdscien/ The Pontifical Academy of Sciences] -- The official Vatican site
* [http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP961022.HTM Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution] by Pope John Paul II, 22 October 1996
* [http://www.vatican.va/roman%5Fcuria/pontifical%5Facademies/acdscien/own/documents/rc_pa_acdscien_doc_10121999_history_en.html History with some pictures]

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