Throughout the ages science and the Catholic Church have been married to one another, with a deep and intricate relationship between the two. Science historians often credit medieval Catholic philosophers and mathematicians as the fathers of modern science, and the Church has often been called a patron of the sciences. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope Saint John Paul II, the Supreme Pontiff himself states that science and the Catholic faith are complementary. One example of the lasting legacy of the Church’s contribution to science is the 35 moon craters named after Jesuits.

Understanding why 35 moon crafters have come to be named after Jesuits requires starting from the very inception of the Society of Jesus, when Saint Ignatius of Loyola founded the order in 1540. Early Jesuits focused their efforts on educational work by founding many colleges and universities across the globe. Science was always an important component to the curriculum taught at Jesuit institutions, so much so that a program of mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences were incorporated into the educational programs at all Jesuit universities.

With a natural inclination towards science and the study of our natural world, Jesuits turned to where all men gaze: the sky. Many members in the field of mathematics, physics, and astronomy converged and worked together to study the moon. These men were selenographists, the term to describe those who study the moon’s surface and name its features: craters, mountain ranges, and plains. They created selenographs, essentially detailed maps of the moon as seen in night’s sky.

The most famous of these selenographs is housed at the entrance to the Smithsonian’s Moon exhibit, taken from the book Almagestum novum composed by Jesuit astronomers Riccioli and Grimaldi in the year 1651. They penned across its top: “Neither do men inhabit the moon nor do souls migrate there.” For three centuries after publishing their book, subsequent scholars used it as a reference for lunar nomenclature. However, different astronomers created their selenographs with different names, resulting in conflicting maps of the moon. In 1922, the International Astronomical Union was formed to standardize lunar nomenclature. Out of a total 40 craters named after Jesuits, 35 made it to the National Air and Space Museum catalog of moon features.

These 35 Jesuits are most deserving of this honor for the orders massive contributions to science since its founding. Selenographists throughout the ages referred time and time again to the original maps made by Riccioli and Grimaldi in 1651, which formed the backbone of modern selenography and lunar study. Today, the International Astronomical Union still credits new moon features with Jesuit names to honor their significance in the field.

The list of 35 Jesuits with credited moon craters is below:

  1. Mario Bettini (Italian), born 1582 in Bologna. died 1657 in Bologna
  2. Jacques de Billy (French), born 1602 in Compiegne. died in 1679 in Dijon
  3. Giuseppe Biancani (Italian), born 1566 in Bologne. died in 1624 in Parme
  4. Roger J Boscovich (Croatian), born 1711 in Ragusa. died in 1787 in Milan
  5. Nicolas Cabei (Italian), born 1586 in Ferrare. died in 1650 in Genes
  6. Christopher Clavius (German), born 1538 in Bamberg. died in 1612 in Rome
  7. Jean-Baptiste Cysat (Swiss), born 1588 in Lucerne. died in 1657 in Lucerne
  8. Francois de Vico (French), born 1805 in Macerata. died in 1848 in London
  9. Gyula Fenyi (Hungarian), born 1845. died 1927
  10. George Fournier (French), born 1595 in Caen. died 1652 in la Fleche
  11. Francesco Grimaldi (Italian), born 1613 in Bologna. died 1663 in Bolognia
  12. Chris. Grienberger (Swiss), born 1564 in Tyrol. died 1636 in Rome
  13. Johann Hagen (Austrian), born 1847 in Bregenz. died 1930 in Rome
  14. Maximilian Hell (Hungarian), born 1720 in Schemnitz. died 1792 in Vienna
  15. Athanasius Kircher (German), born 1602 in Geisa. died 1680 in Rome
  16. Francis X Kugler (German), born 1862 in Konigsburg. died 1929 in Lucern
  17. Charles Malapert (French), born 1580 in Mons. died 1630 in Victoria
  18. Christian Mayer (German), born 1719. died 1783
  19. Paul McNally (American), born 1890. died 1955
  20. Theodore Moretus (Belgian), born 1601 in Antwerp. died 1667 in Breslau
  21. Denis Petau (French), born 1583 in Orleans. died 1652 in Paris
  22. Jean-Bap. Riccioli (Italian), born 1598 in Ferrara. died 1671 in Bologna
  23. Matteo Ricci (Italian), born 1552 in Mavrata. died 1610 in Peking
  24. Rodes (Hungarian), born 1881. died 1939
  25. Romana (Spanish)
  26. Christophe Scheiner (German), born 1575 in Wald. died 1650 in Neiss
  27. George Schomberger (German), born 1597 in Innsbruck. died 1645 in Hradisch
  28. Ange Secchi (Italian), born 1818 in Reggio. died 1878 in Rome
  29. Hughues Semple (Scottish), born 1596 in Ecosse. died 1654 in Madrid
  30. Gerolamo Sirsalis (Italian), born 1584. died 1654
  31. Johan Stein (Dutch), born 1871 in Grave. died 1951 in Rome
  32. Andre Tacquet (Belgian), born 1612 in Antwerp. died 1660 in Antwerp
  33. Adam Tannerus (Austrian), born 1572 in Innsbruck. died 1632 in Tyrol
  34. Nicolas Zucchi (Italian), born 1586 in Parmo. died 1670 in Rome
  35. Jean-Baptiste Zupi (Italian), born 1590 in Catanzaro. died 1650 in Naples

For the amatuer astronomer, here are where you can find each of the Jesuit craters on the moon, using latitude and longitude.

NASM name latitude longitude diameter
Bettinus 63.4s 315.2e 71.4 km
Billy 13.8s 309.9e 45.7 km
Blancanus 63.6s 338.5e 105.3 km
Boscovich 9.8n 11.1e 46.0 km
Cabaeus 84.9s 324.5e 98.4 km
Clavius 58.4s 345.6e 225.0 km
Cysatus 66.2s 353.9e 48.8 km
De Vico 19.7s 299.8e 20.3 km
Fenyi 44.9s 254.9e 39.0 km
Furnerius 36.3s 60.4e 125.2 km
Grimaldi 5.2s 291.4e 410.0 km
Gruemberger 66.9s 350.0e 93.6 km
Hagen 48.3s 135.1e 55.5 km
Hell 32.4s 352.2e 33.3 km
Kircher 67.1s 314.7e 72.5 km
Kugler 53.8s 103.7e 65.8 km
Malapert 84.9s 12.9e 69.0 km
Mayer 63.2n 17.3e 38.0 km
McNally 22.6n 232.8e 47.5 km
Moretus 70.6s 354.5e 114.4 km
Petavius 25.3s 60.4e 176.6 km
Riccioli 3.0s 285.7e 145.5 km
Riccius 36.9s 26.5e 70.6 km
Rodes* 23.0n 283.0e
Romana* 21.0s 33.0e 33.6 km
Scheiner 60.5s 332.2e 110.4 km
Schomberger 76.7s 24.9e 85.0 km
Secchi 2.4n 43.5e 22.7 km
Simpelius 73.0s 15.2e 70.4 km
Sirsalis 12.5s 299.6e 42.0 km
Stein 7.2n 179.0e 33.7 km
Tacquet 16.6n 19.2e 6.6 km
Tannerus 56.4s 22.0e 28.6 km
Zucchius 61.4s 309.7e 64.2 km
Zupus 17.2s 307.7e 38.0 km
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