Stanley Jaki, physicist, priest, author and teacher: 1924 – 2009
One of my favorite historians of science, Fr. Jaki, has passed away, at age 84. After lecturing last week in Rome he went to Spain for further meetings and succumbed to a heart attack.
Jaki was a Gifford Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, 1974-75 and 1975-76, the prestigious, century-old academic appointment in the disciplines of philosophy and theology, which has included as past lecturers Hannah Arendt, John Dewey, William James and Albert Schweitzer.
He was deeply committed to the conjunction between faith and reason, arguing that the flourishing of science in Europe was intrinsically related to the Christian understanding of creation and the Incarnation.
I have about 20 of his published books, and I reread chunks of them (and highlight them to death) whenever I can. I had the good fortune to hear him lecture at MIT and elsewhere in Cambridge about 15 years ago. He had a marvelous (sometimes biting) sense of humor, and even in the course of just a few lectures I could tell he was not the kind of man to suffer fools gladly.
His books are invaluable resources, just for the reference material and bibliographies alone. And no one seriously studying the rise of science in the West can ignore his work, even if (as I would say) the ‘mainstream’ of history of science scholars does not agree with his views.
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Very sad, that; he was quite a gem. I read everything I could find by him in college.
I was just recently re-reading his essay on Galileo. It’s daunting how good a writer he was in his adopted English (Hungarian by birth). Although he was over fond of the adjective ‘rank.’ He was guaranteed to use it at least once per essay (rank positivism, rank relativism, rank historicism) but it’s a minor quibble in such a prodigious output.