Karl Alois Kneller.

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passed Secchi. Born at Corte Maggiore (in the pro-
vince of Piacenza) on October ; th 1824, he lost his
parents when very young, but his education was taken
in hands by an elder brother, who lived at Parma, and
after his death by a cousin at Bologna. In Bologna
University, he was appointed (as early as 1851) to the
Chair of Optics and Astronomy, and in 1855 to the
Directorate of the Observatory. He discovered three
comets (in 1862 and 1863), reduced to systematic form
the meteorological notes of the Observatory staff during

1 Cf. G i o v a n n i Santini, La sua vita e le sue opere. Discorso
letto nella chiesa di s. Sofia in Padova dal Prof. Giuseppe Lo-
re n z o n i nel di trigesimo dalla morte dell' illustre astronomo, Padova
1877, 5: Nessuna meraviglia pertanto, che il nostro Santini, d'indole
buona per natura, abbia poi ritenuto quella morale (that of the
Gospel) per norma costante della sua vita ed abbia sempre nutrito
e coltivato nell' intimo del suo cuore quel profondo sentimento re-
ligioso , che ne addolci di tante consolazioni le traversie della vita
e che, sopravvissuto aggli splendori della sublime intelligenza, rischiaro
di un melanconico e tranquillo lume gli ultimi e vacillanti pas si della
sua mortale camera.

z Lorenzo Respighi. Suo elogio pel P. G. St. Ferrari d. C.
d. G. Nell' anniversario della sua morte letto nella Pontificia Acca-
demia Tiberina il 6 die. 1890. Roma 1891.


the period 1814 1858, and published studies on the
phenomenon of irradiation in the human eye and the
eye's pqwer of accommodation. His investigation of
the declination of the magnetic needle in Bologna were
'f>sd'ety interrupted, when in 1864 the Piedmontese Go-
vernment demanded of him an oath of allegiance.
Respighi declared that he could not conscientiously
subscribe to the oath proposed, and as a result he was
"relieved" of his professorate and his post in the Obser-
vatory. Pius IX., by way of compensation placed him
in charge of the Observatory on the Capitol, but here
too he came, in 1871, under the menace of the fatal oath.
Respighi again refused to take it 1 : but no one capable
of filling his position being forthcoming, the Govern-
ment restored him in 1872 without exacting any oath.
In the interval he had, at the instance of the British
authorities, proceeded to India and made observations of
a total eclipse of the sun. At Rome he devoted him-
self mainly to spectroscopic research: and his works
on the solar protuberances, and the constitution of the sun
generally, attracted attention throughout Europe 2 . In
addition to these he explained with the aid of the spectro-
scope the luminosity of the stars, investigated the causes
of the variation in the sun's diameter, made many meteoro-
logical studies, and in 1870 co-operated in the measure-
ment of a degree of latitude at Rome. Another very
valuable work of Respighi's was his accurate catalogue
of the declination of 2534 stars of the northern hemi-
sphere published in 1880 and 1885. The corresponding
right ascensions he did not live to complete, for on

1 Civilta catt., Ser. 8, IV, Roma 1871, 487; cf. 236.

2 Encyclopaedia Britannica II, Edinburgh 1875, 7^8-


December io th 1889 death cut short the labours of
a savant, as rare in character as in intellect, and a
Christian of the highest type.

In the year 1819 an envoy of the Scottish Monastery
of Regensburg visited the fatherland of the Order in
search of talented lads for the seminary which had been
long attached to the Monastery of Regensburg. Since
the days of the Reformation the education of Catholic
priests in Scotland had been impossible, and many such
journeys had been taken by the Regensburg Benedictines,
but that of 1818 was especially notable for of the two
boys whom Prior Robertson in that year brought back
with him to Regensburg, one was destined to find in
Bavaria a new home, and to become one of the most
active and celebrated of Bavarian astronomers of modern

Johannes Von Lament was born in 1805 at
Braemar, not far from the Castle of Balmoral. His father,
a not over-rich tax-collector, died young, and the ta-
lented boy would have been compelled to give up his
studies, had not a happy chance introduced him to the
envoy of Regensburg. Under the direction of the Bene-
dictines he completed his gymnasium course, and then
took up philosophy and theology. But he did not be-
come a priest. His prior, Dom Benedict Deasson (f 1855),
a distinguished mathematician, and physicist, soon dis-
covered his pupil's extraordinary aptitude for science,
and sent him to the newly established Observatory at
Munich to push his studies deeper. Here Lament so
distinguished himself that in 1835 he was appointed
Director of the Observatory. In this post, which he
occupied till his death, he did an enormous amount
of work. He investigated constellations and nebulae,


calculated the mass of Uranus, and catalogued after
repeated observations 80000 stars of the 7 th to the
io tb magnitude. He also made important contributions
to the geodesy of his adopted country. But these diffi-
cult and tedious labours hardly hold the first place in
Lament's achievements. ''Although enough of them-
selves", writes Professor Giinther, "to make a famous
man these achievements fall below his invaluable con-
tributions to terrestrial physics." He founded a society,
with many branches, for meteorological research, and
its Journal, although short-lived, is "an inexhaustible
quarry for the specialist". He invented apparatus
which automatically registered meteorological pheno-
mena, investigated the temperature of the earth, atmo-
spheric electricity , and above all the magnetism of
the earth, in the study of which he made extensive
journeys with the portable theodolite invented by
himself 1 .

Lament's religious opinions were well-known in Munich.
"He was", writes Professor Von Schafhautl, "in this,
as in every other respect, for all his mildness a man
of the firmest character, and his Catholicity was firm
and unwavering. When a clouded sky drove him from
his Observatory he loved to pass his evenings at the
lately founded Catholic Casino, and liked best the com-
pany of simple intelligent business people. Their ways
of thinking and feeling the savant found completely
to his mind, and he became a great favourite with the
towns-people and all the members of the Casino. At
about ten o'clock he usually took his leave and re-
turned through the dark and lonely English Garden to

1 Cf. Giinther in Allgemeine deutsche Biographic XVII 570.


his home at the Observatory, a walk of more than an
hour. . . ."

In this lonely Observatory where he had spent so
great a part of his life, he was also to die. "He suffered
no pain, and was so little conscious of declining strength
that till almost the last moment he had no suspicion
that his life was in danger. He however received the
last Sacraments at the instance of his friends, and for
his own spiritual consolation. 'Now I am content',
he said stretching out his icy hand in a last farewell."

"In the frantic witches' dance of our time, Lamont
stands apart, a spectacle of peace a keen observer, a
deep thinker, and, what is still more, a man of character,
a brave, thorough, Christian man." 1 "He possessed" t
remarks another writer 2 who lays special emphasis on
Lament's charitable disposition, "that calm and cheerful
manner, which proceeds from spiritual peace, and he
had the secret of keeping it unclouded. Love of truth
and moral stability were the essence of his character."

Another astronomer who distinguished himself in the
field of earth-magnetism was the Austrian Karl Kreil 3
(1798 1862). A pupil, like Lamont, of the Benedictines,
he received his first lessons in science at Kremsmiinster
under Dom Bonifaz Schwarzenbrunner , and showing
himself apt and enthusiastic, he was set to work at me-
teorology. In 1827 he held a post at Vienna and later
at Milan, in 1845 ne became Director at Prague, and
in 1850 Director of the Meteorological Observatory at

1 v. Schafhautl in Historisch-politische Blatter LXXXV 78 80
82. Cf. E. Ringseis, Erinnerungen IV 154 156.

2 C. v. Orff in Leopoldina XVIII, Halle 1882, 55.

3 C. v. Wurzbach, Biograph. Lexikon des Kaisertums Oster-
reich XIII, Wien 1865, 179187.


Vienna. A happy chance turned his attention to the
study of earth-magnetism, and he became the pioneer
of this branch of science in Austria. "He was one of
the most active members of the International Magnetic
Society founded by Gauss, the observations and com-
munications of which furnished Gauss and Weber with
invaluable material for the development of the theory
of earth-magnetism. The work of Kreil is, for versatility
and accuracy, unequalled in its kind, and it won the warm
recognition of the first of contemporary specialists, among
others of Gauss, Sir John Herschel, Sartorius Von Walters-
hausen, and Humboldt." Kreil was the first scientist on
the Continent to undertake extensive journeys for the
study of earth-magnetism. In 1843 1 %44 he toured
Bohemia, under a commission from the Bohemian Scien-
tific Association ; in 1846 1848 the other provinces of
the Empire; in 1854 the coast-lands of the Adriatic;
in 1858 the Danubian Principalities. His enterprise
found many imitators in other countries.

Kreil's achievements are to be ascribed solely to his
enthusiastic love of science, and to his personal sacrifices
in its service. To the favour of circumstances, or the
support of powerful patrons he owed very little. The
praise is his alone; he chose a subject of investigation
that came within the range of his resources, and pushed
on his inquiries in spite of every obstacle. And the
obstacles were great. At Prague he found the Obser-
vatory in a state of extreme dilapidation. "With the
savings that he was able, by a life of unexampled sim-
plicity, to scrape together out of his salary 800 gulden,
a stipend utterly unworthy of such a savant - - he pur-
chased for his own use scientific instruments, and these
were, necessarily of the cheapest kind." Lacking the means


to erect for magnetic observation a hut, free from iron,
he made his observations in an ordinary building, and
corrected the consequent inaccuracy of his results by
protracted calculations. His journeys "were attended in
some cases with actual danger, in all with severe labour,
which on one occasion brought on an illness of con-
siderable duration".

Kreil's "simple and lovable character, his benevolence
free from all stain of affectation, his great modesty were
the happiness of his family, and of his small circle of
intimate friends. His religious convictions were fervent
and deep-rooted, and far from interfering with his re-
searches in science were a powerful ally, and a continual
source of strength" *.

The same zeal for science, which, despite the scan-
tiness of resources, finds a sphere of fruitful activity,
manifests itself in the North-German astronomer Edward
He is 2 (born 1806 at Cologne, died 1872 at Munster
in Westphalia). The Munster Observatory not possessing
any of the larger astronomical instruments, Heis de-
voted himself to investigations for which such instruments
were not needed; he studied shooting stars, zodiacal light,

1 Kreil, une des gloires scientifiques les plus pures de 1'Autriche,
n'avait encore que 54 ans ; son caractere doux et aimant , sa bien-
faissance eloignee de toute ostentation, son extreme modestie faisaient
le bonheur de sa famille et du petit nombre de ceux qu'il admettait
dans son intimite. Ses convictions religieuses, intimes et profondes,
loin de se heurter contre ses occupations scientifiques, leur ont prete
un puissant appui et y puisaient au contraire une force toujours nou-
velle (Paper of Count Marschal in Les Mondes I, Paris 1863, 403).

2 Natur und Offenbarung XXIII, Munster 1877, 508 511. Deutscher
Hausschatz III, Regensburg 1876 1877, 807 810. Leopoldina XIII,
Halle 1877, 178180.


variable stars, sun spots and the polar lights. He succeeded
also in interesting others in the same line of research
so that the same meteor or Northern light might be
observed from as many stations as possible : the various
observations were then compared and the determination
(e. g. of the path of the meteor in question, its distance
or that of the polar light from the earth, or the re-
lations existing between the lights of the North and
those of the South), was effected. In 1858 the ''Journal
of Astronomy, Meteorology, and Geography" was estab-
lished by Heis to serve as a common centre for the
scientists associated with him. A paper published after
his death gives particulars of 1 5 ooo observations of
shooting-stars made by him in 37 years. As early as
1849 he had determined for the first time the point of
the heavens from which meteors seem to take their

His chief work is however his atlas of stars visible
from Central Europe with the naked eye *. The earlier
charts were very defective: they gave the relative de-
grees of brightness incorrectly, marked dimmer stars
while they omitted brighter ones, and in other respects
also presented a false picture of reality. The first who
sought to make the necessary corrections was Argelander,
and the important work begun by him was completed
by Heis. The gradation of the stars in the latter's
atlas is quoted in the famous Harvard Photometry 2
as possessing an authority comparable to that of Arge-
lander's Uranometry, of the Bonn catalogue, and of

1 Cf. Heis himself in Natur und Offenbarung XVIII, Miinster
1872, 518532.

2 Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College XIV.


Gould's Uranometry. Heis was occupied on this work
not less than twenty seven years the number of stars
marked is 5421 - - for these stars are "innumerable"
only in the sense that as one continues to gaze steadily
at the heavens fresh stars continually become visible.
A further merit of Heis' atlas is that it contains the first
trustworthy chart of the Milky Way. This had not
been included in Argelander's work: and, incredible as
it may seem, in older charts the treatment of the Milky
Way had been founded not on observation but on the
description of it given by Ptolemy. The Miinster astro-
nomer was the first to present an exact delimitation of
the boundaries of the Milky Way, and a reliable account
of the gradation of brightness among the stars of which
it is composed.

Next in importance to this Atlas come his studies
of the variable stars. These were first published in 1903
(together with Krueger's observations) by his pupil and
friend J. G. Hagen - S. J. Heis' notes extending over
37 years, exhibit, as his editor remarks, extraordinary
tenacity of purpose and rare precision. Two Latin essays
of Heis rank among the earliest contributions to Photo-
metry 1 . Heis as a teacher was interesting and stimu-
lating : his activities in this direction produced some very
valuable text-books. One of these, "A Collection of
Examples", had before his death reached a fiftieth edition.

Heis was a perfect type of the fervent and zealous
Catholic who finds his greatest joy in his faith, and in
the practical discipline prescribed by his faith. He went

1 De magnitudine relativa numeroque accurate stellarum quae solis
oculis conspiciuntur fixarum. Miinster 1852. Beobachtungen iiber
Mira Ceti von 1840 1859, in the Vorlesungsverzeichnis der Miinsterer
Akademie 1859 1860.


to Mass every day, unless prevented by illness, received
the Sacraments regularly, said the Rosary every night
with his family, and was an honorary member of the
Academic Congregation of Mary. He made it a rule
to forego his lecture on the feast of St. Aloysius, the
patron of youth, and took part with the greatest pride
and devotion in every ceremony of the Church. Nor did
he make any attempt to conceal his faith when, as in
the Kulturkampf, to profess it openly meant to sacrifice
one's interests. One of the first copies of his Atlas
he sent to Pius IX: and the letter of thanks, signed
by the Pope's own hand , was one of his proudest
possessions. It was his desire that his tombstone should
bear the symbol of the dove with the olive-branch such
as we find it in the Catacombs.

Heis had no lack of the critical faculty. When
A. Von Humboldt was commissioned by the Prussian
Government to investigate the alleged visions of the
battle at Birkenbaumchen, and was* prevented by illness
from discharging his commission, he appointed Heis as
his substitute. Heis summoned before him all who had
claimed to have seen the visions, but it proved on exa-
mination that nobody had seen anything definite. "It
is a cloud battle", said Heis at the end of his judgment 1 .

Johann Franz En eke (f 1865) is known chiefly
through the comet called after him. He did not actually
discover it, but proved mathematically that it travels
round the sun in a closed elliptical path, and so, like
the planets, belongs to our solar system. Encke was
also director of the great undertaking which had for its

1 Cf. F. Zurbonsen, Die Sage von der Volkerschlacht der
Zukunft 'am Birkenbaume', Koln 1897, 73 f 7 8 f -


object to produce charts of the whole celestial equator.
The work stretched over the years 1826 1859. One
amongst its many good results was to make possible
the discovery of new planets: and to the accuracy of
this Berlin Atlas is to be ascribed e. g. the prompt dis-
covery of Neptune, the location of which had been
mathematically determined by Leverrier 1 . In Encke's
writings and lectures we find numerous references to a
ruling Providence: and although he was not an exem-
plary church-goer there was never any doubt as to
his religious convictions 2 .

Among more recent German astronomers the name
of E. L. A. Von Rebeur-Paschwitz (f 1895) stands
very high. "Dying at the age of thirty four he had
done work which most men of twice his age might
regard with satisfaction as the fruits of time wellspent."
To him is due above all the employment of the hori-
zontal pendulum. "He was as distinguished for depth
of religious feeling", writes a biographer, "as for keenness
of scientific insight." 3

To this long list of Italian, German, and French sa-
vants we may add the names of two leaders of astro-
nomy in Switzerland who also were fervent Christians.
We refer to Rudolf Wolf (18161893) of Zurich,
and Alfred Gautier (1793 1881) of Geneva, the
two discoverers of the relations between sun-spots and
terrestrial magnetism. The former left instructions in
his will that u his grave should be marked with a cross

1 E. g. Monatsberichte der Berliner Akademie 1861, 506; 1869, 173.

2 C. Bruhns, Job. Franz Encke, sein Leben und Wirken, Leipzig
1869, 321.

3 Leopoldina XXXII, Halle 1896, 14.


similar to that which he had erected over his mother
and sister" 1 . And that the Cross was for him no empty
symbol is shown by numerous passages in his writings.
As to the relations of science and religion he was of
the same mind with Secchi 2 . Gautier's adherence to
the Christian belief is clearly affirmed in a memorial
article in the Review edited by Wolf 3 .

We may then conclude our inquiry among the leaders
of Astronomy with the words of J. H. Von Madler of
Dorpater (f 1874), himself an adept in the science:

"No! Science and its true and genuine champions do
not merit the censures and contempt which have been
heaped on them by certain writers, who accuse them of
hiding away from view the things of God, and degrading men
to atheism. Such charges are absolutely groundless: of astro-
nomy in particular we hope to show that exactly the opposite
is true, and that appeal should be made to it to restore and
confirm those beliefs which are rightly esteemed the noblest
possession of mankind."

"If science is to take up arms against materialism, it
must rely strictly on observed facts, all the more as it is
from these that materialists profess to derive their con-
clusions. Were we to be silent as to the implications of
these facts, it would amount - qui facet consentit, says the
proverb - - to a confession that our views are at variance
with them."

"But to this it must not and cannot come. Spirit as
such ... is no obstacle to our research and cannot be,
for otherwise it would not be spirit at all. From the fact

1 Mitteilungen der naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Bern aus dem
Jahr 1893, Bern 1894, Nr. 1305 1334, p. 214.

2 V. infra in the Section VIII.

3 "Pratiquant sans bruit les vertus chretiennes, il est mort comme
il avait vecu, au milieu de ses livres et de ses ceuvres pieuses" (Viertel-
jahrsschrift der naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Zurich XXVI, Zurich

1881, 398).


that we abstain from transgressing the necessary limits of
our science, and trespassing on other provinces of thought,
it must not be inferred that we deny the principles esta-
blished in those other provinces. . . ." l



In three directions, especially, Physics has brilliant con-
quests to record during the 19 th century in the fields,
namely, of electricity, light, and heat. While as regards
light and heat the advance made has consisted, not so
much in the discovery of new facts as in the deeper
and more systematic interpretation of those already
known, the reverse has been the case with electricity.
The nature of electricity remains as before an enigma ;
but the immense body of new facts discovered in the
first half of the century, the wonderful applications of
this knowledge in the second half, have outshone nearly
every other achievement of Physics. The 19 th century
is the age of electricity. At its opening the discoveries
of Volta, at its close the discoveries of Rontgen held
all eyes fixed in admiration : and the interval is filled
with the illustrious names of Faraday, Oersted, Ampere
and the long list of inventors who translated the accu-
mulated stores of discovery into practical appliances the
value of which is beyond estimation. Our survey of
the leaders of Physics may, therefore, appropriately
begin with the pioneers of Electricity.

As to who these pioneers really were, we find offi-
cial testimony in the very terminology of the science.

1 J. H. v. Madler, Reden und Abhandlungen iiber Gegenstande
der Himmelskunde, Berlin 1870, 326 328.

Kneller, Christianity. 8


The units in which electricity is measured bear the names
of distinguished investigators, and the names so honoured
are naturally those with which the progress of the science
is chiefly associated. We find among them Volta,
Ampere, Faraday, Ohm, Coulomb. The reason for
selecting two of these names is obvious : Coulomb was
the first to make experiments in the quantitative deter-
mination of electricity, Ohm discovered the law on which
such determination is nowadays invariably based. There
remain the names of Volta, Ampere, and Faraday. We
proceed to glance at the achievements of these masters,
and to inquire what attitude they assumed towards
Christianity and religion in general.

Alessandro Volta (f 1827), the discoverer of
current electricity, was a man about whose religious
position there is no room for doubt 1 . "He was", writes
a biographer, "much given to investigation of the grounds
on which Catholicity is based, and had a wide and
comprehensive grasp of them. Every utterance of his
gave evidence of unusual lucidity of mind and large
erudition. But in every matter affecting the dogmatic
substance of faith, or the observation of prescribed re-
ligious duties, he was, for all his learning, as teachable
as a child." Throughout his professorate at Como he
was in the habit of devoting academic holidays to re-
ligious studies, and he made constant use of the Mo-
nastery libraries, especially of that of the college for-

1 C. Grandi, Alessandro Volta, Milano 1899. Cf. Stimmen aus
Maria-Laach LIV, Freiburg 1900, I 25 138 156. As well as the
books mentioned on page 4 of the latter cf. P. R i c c a r d i , Sulle
opere di A. Volta. Note bibliografiche, in Memorie della regia Acca-
demia di scienze, lettere ed arti in Modena XVII, Modena 1877,


merly occupied by the Jesuits. But in spite of his
extensive acquaintance with these matters, perhaps be-

Online LibraryKarl Alois KnellerChristianity and the leaders of modern science; a contribution to the history of culture in the nineteenth century → online text (page 9 of 32)