The appearance of Jesuit scientists in science-fiction novels, often as the main characters, is an interesting and little-known fact. Some have even suggested that this feature may characterize a specific sub-genre of such novels. The quality and the themes vary greatly, and it is not clear what moves authors to include Jesuits. This article reviews ten of these novels, noting their great variety in plot and approach, as well as the frequent use of space travel and contact with intelligent aliens. In general, the presence of Jesuit characters allows the authors to introduce a religious perspective, but can also be interpreted as a recognition of the Jesuit tradition in scientific fields.
Athanasius Kircher paid special attention to magnetism, more specifically terrestrial one, in his work Magnes sive de arte magnetica. Other Jesuits of his time, such as Garzoni and Cabeo, also wrote on this subject. Kircher studied in particular magnetic declination and its possible use to determine geographical longitudes. At his time, this was an important subject for long sea journeys. First, he collected a large number of observations of magnetic declination from different sources in three tables and two lists with a total of 518 values, among them forty-three made by Jesuits. Kircher proposed that a magnetic map could be made based on these observations, but he did not do it. From Kircher’s observations a map of magnetic declination has been drawn and it is presented here. Kircher discussed the causes of declination and presented a model for the origin of the magnetic field of the Earth, which differed from that proposed by Gilbert. Kircher finally considered magnetism as a cosmic force with its origin in God.
Jesuit scholars have pursued studies in mathematics and science since the founding of the order. Authors in this issue discuss the work on magnetic declination by the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher, the reform of Spanish naval education using the treatise on naval warfare by the Jesuit Paul Hoste, the Jesuit contributions to the Japanese clock-making industry, the dissemination of scientific knowledge through the Jesuit journal Brotéria, the Jesuit Erich Wasmann’s attempts to grapple with Darwinian evolution, Jesuit contributions to understanding the natural environment of India, and the many accomplishments of the Jesuit-run Vatican Observatory.