Nebraska Academy of Sciences


Date of this Version


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Published in Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences, Volume 1 (1972).


Copyright 1972 by the author(s).


Our whole planet became conscious of a religio-scientific relationship during the moon-orbiting Apollo 8 flight, at Christmas, 1968. Its astronauts were the first men to leave the gravitation of Earth, the first to come under another gravitational body, the first to travel so far from Earth (233,000 miles), the first to see the other side of the moon. Contemplation of the scientific and technical achievements of their Mission against a new background of the incredibly immense Universe and the wonders of its creation, led them to depart from flight plan to re-read to planet Earth from outer space the Genesis story of creation: "In the beginning, God created, etc." This demonstration of a religio-scientific relationship in our scientifically remarkable 20th century made so strong an impression that the U.S. Government yielded to popular demand by issuing a special religio-scientific postage stamp of recognition. And this in the face of a 20th century skepticism and supposed antagonism between religion and science, as summarized in the slogan, "God is dead."

Interesting comparisons can be made with another extraordinary century, the 13th, a pre-Renaissance century when western man was developing and discovering many new things in his material world, a century outstanding for its religious fervor and faith, a century in which religion and science enjoyed very cordial relations generally, and yet a century which was also known for uncertain and questioning religious faith, as illustrated by Albigensianism and other dissenting "isms."

The century opened with one of the greatest of the popes, Innocent III, on the papal throne. Among other notable achievements, Innocent was an outstanding patron of medicine, the founder of the modern city hospital and other charitable foundations, and promoter of women serving professionally in them. It was the century of St. Louis of France, St. Ferdinand of Spain, Frederick II of Germany, and Edward I, the English Justinian. It was the century of the signing of the Magna Charta and the rise of freedom and democracy for the masses, of the Vatican-promoted founding of the Universities which expanded rapidly to great numbers of students, including many women, and much research. It was the century of the great Gothic cathedrals. It was the century of St. Francis of Assisi; St. Dominic; the great scientist-theologian St. Albert the Great, father of colloidal chemistry; St. Thomas Aquinas; Roger Bacon, one of the greatest of Medieval scientists; Alexander of Hales; Pope Honorius III, distinguished patron of learning; and John XXI, very famous as a scientist, physician, surgeon, ophthalmologist, and medical writer before becoming Pope. The official papal physicians were renowned as the very best men available, and one of them, Guy de Chauliac, is known as the father of modern surgery. The first important medical dictionary was written by Simon of Genoa in the 13th century. He also did much to make the use of opium more scientific, and worked out rules for its administration.