Appeared in Spring 1992, Vol. XVIII, No. 1

Roger Boscovich was a powerful thinker and a truly renaissance man; the product of an outstanding 18th century Jesuit education. Fr. Homann’s fine essay brings to light the life and achievement of this great man’s scientific thought.

To mark the two hundredth anniversary in 1987 of the death of the Croatian Jesuit scholar Roger Boscovich, several international congresses were convened to explore the enduring value of his philosophical and scientific legacy. The Croatian province of the Society of Jesus sponsored a symposium in Zagreb, whose proceedings, in English translation, comprise “The Philosophy of Science of Ruder Boskovic.”1 Eleven papers, nine by Slavic scholars, probe Boscovich’s epistemology, natural philosophy, experimental techniques, and metaphysics of finality. Other groups met in Milan, Rome, and Vienna, and we may expect their reports to amplify the reputation of a man who became part of our cultural history as natural philosopher, astronomer, physicist, mathematician, diplomat, and poet. Born in 1711, Boscovich entered the Jesuit order at age 15, and was enrolled in the Collegio Romano, predecessor of the present Pontifical Gregorian University. Here his philosophical training encompassed mathematics, physics, and astronomy, and acquainted him with Newton’s Principia Mathematica, which early captured his imagination. On completion of theological studies, he was ordained, and celebrated his first mass at San Ignazio in Rome on 5 November 1740. He had already been appointed Roman College professor of mathematics, a late successor to the renowned Christopher Clavius (1547-1612). Boscovich’s tenure let him develop an atomic theory of matter that started from Newton’s theory of forces and was developed in a series of dissertations prior to his masterpiece Theoria Philosophiae Naturalis.2

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