The Holiness of Ordinary Time

Steve Bell, Ordinary Time, Pilgrim Year series Tish Harrison Warren, Liturgy of the Ordinary Julie Canlis, Theology of the Ordinary

In this season of the liturgical year called Ordinary Time, Candace and I are reading aloud two books this year: Steve Bell, Ordinary Time, from his Pilgrim Year series; and Tish Harrison Warren, A Liturgy of the Ordinary (IVP, 2019). We’ve also ordered Julie Canlis, A Theology of the Ordinary (2017).

Steve Bell explains that Ordinary Time, coming at the end of the liturgical cycle, “is the season in which we come to realize the astonishing holiness of our daily lives as a consequence of all we have previously [experienced in the church year]… the daily is impregnated with the divine.” Steve then quotes one of my favorite novelists, so I had to go back and read the essay he cited. Here is a fuller version of the quotation, followed by a famous line from G. K. Chesterton:

“While no serious novelist knows for sure where his writing comes from, I have the strongest feeling that, whatever else the benefits of the Catholic faith, it is of particularly felicitous use to the novelist. Indeed, if one had to design a religion for novelists, I can think of no better. What distinguishes Judeo-Christianity in general from other world religions is its emphasis on the value of the individual person, its view of man as a creature in trouble, seeking to get out of it, and accordingly on the move. Add to this anthropology the special marks of the Catholic Church: the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, which, whatever else they do, confer the highest significance upon the ordinary things of this world, bread, wine, water, touch, breath, words, talking, listening — and what do you have? You have a man in a predicament and on the move in a real world of real things, a world which is a sacrament and a mystery; a pilgrim whose life is a searching and a finding.”
— Walker Percy, “The Holiness of the Ordinary,” in Signposts in a Strange Land (New York: The Noonday Press, 1991), pp. 369.

“Ordinary things are more valuable than extraordinary things; nay, they are more extraordinary.”
— G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, ch. 4, “The Ethics of Elfland.”

I’m reminded that Ralph Wood argues that Sam Gamgee is the real hero of The Lord of the Rings. Wood is convinced that, if the Incarnation were to occur in Middle Earth – as an old sage once foresaw (cf. Morgoth’s Ring, p. 321) – Tolkien would have reported that God chose to enter the world not as a wizard nor even a human but as a hobbit.
— Ralph C. Wood, The Gospel According to Tolkien (Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), ch. 5.

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Nightmare Scenario

Nightmare Scenario, Fauci bobblehead

This Fourth of July weekend I read Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History. I highly recommend it. The two authors, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta, are reporters for the Washington Post, and excerpts of the book have appeared there previously. The book weighs in at nearly 500 pages. It is investigative journalism focused exactly where we need it: on the creation of a first, source-based, comprehensive account of what actually happened with public health in 2020. I’m tempted to say it reads like a John Grisham novel, except every page provides the backstory to events we all-too-clearly remember!

I am happy how the backstory succeeds in humanizing some of the doctors I wasn’t sure about or had actually come to distrust: Deborah Birx, Robert Redfield, and Stephen Hahn. I now understand and appreciate their actions more than I could as an observer of headlines and press conferences “watching from a distance.” Not that they didn’t make mistakes (the same goes for Fauci), but the story of the four of them (including Fauci) working together against all the idiots is compelling. Unfortunately, it does nothing at all to rehabilitate any of the other major figures, including Alex Azar (HHS Secretary) or the White House.

“Nightmare scenario” refers to two levels: first, for pandemic planners, it is the scenario in which a viral pandemic arises with asymptomatic spread. Second, on another level, no one could plan for the eventuality that the epidemiological “nightmare scenario” would actually materialize under a political “nightmare scenario,” during an American presidential administration that cared only for politics and nothing for public health.

Redfield, director of the CDC, comes across in the book not as the conservative political activist I feared from his missteps early in the AIDs epidemic, but as a friendly grandfatherly figure who dedicated his life to public health and the care of marginalized and vulnerable people, inspired by John Paul II, but who was never cut out to be an administrator nor equipped for hardball politics. He would rather ask every security guard about their families than implement schemes to outmaneuver Kushner and Azar.

Similarly, I have much much more sympathy now for Birx, who worked in the White House itself, and for Hahn, the director of the FDA. The three of them were far more exposed to White House pressure than Fauci. Indeed, the three made a pact, which they made known, that if one of them was fired, the other two would resign in protest. And all four doctors, including Fauci, met weekly to keep each other in the loop, encourage one another, and coordinate their activities. The political interference and the public harassment all four endured is simply atrocious.

This is not the last word; it is a baseline upon which other accounts will be added. I can’t wait for the memoir of Francis Collins, for example. But Nightmare Scenario is an indispensable first account. It would be a gripping story, if only it were fiction.

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Lewis books – Wade Podcast

The Wade Center podcast was one of my favorites even before the pandemic. I never miss an episode. As I wrote here previously:

The Wade Center Podcast, hosted by the Wade’s co-directors David and Crystal Downing, is a treasure trove of enthralling and insightful conversations about the seven authors the Wade collects: in addition to Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, G. K. Chesterton, and George MacDonald. If you enjoy any of these writers, you will want to go back and listen through the archives of the Wade Center podcast!

When the lockdown started to restrict the number of scholars visiting the Wade, who usually provided the pool of conversationalists for the podcast, curators David and Crystal Downing decided not to suspend the podcast but to devote episodes to their own introductions to Lewis’ books. These recordings convey David and Crystal’s expert commentary in a lively and humorous mode of informal discussion. For future direct access to this collection of remarkable resources, here’s a list of the books they have discussed so far. This list only includes podcasts devoted to a specific book; it excludes most episodes which are topical in nature — download the entire back-catalog of episodes in your favorite podcast app! Subscribe to The Wade Center Podcast wherever you get your podcasts or listen on the Wade Center website.

Podcast episodes devoted to specific works by C. S. Lewis:

Podcast episodes devoted to specific works by Dorothy L. Sayers:

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Sue Magruder, 1932-2021

A 1932 model in a 1935 model
A 1932 model in a 1935 model

Sue Lee Brimer Magruder, 88, of Kirksville, Missouri, died Saturday, May 29, 2021 in Kirksville. Sue was born on June 26, 1932 near Bowling Green, MO, the daughter of Cecil R. Brimer and Lottie Maude (Stanley) Brimer.

When Sue was two years old she moved with her family to Powell, WY, where they homesteaded in the Big Horn Basin. Her first memory on the homestead is of waking up in bed in the morning and finding snow on her face and eyelashes. In Wyoming, Sue’s Mom would look out the window upon the mountains and recite Psalm 121:1-2. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” This verse became Sue’s theme verse, sustaining her throughout her life.

Psalm 121:1-2 with Grand Tetons, photograph by Jackson Magruder
Psalm 121:1-2 with Grand Tetons, photograph by Jackson Magruder

In the 4th grade Sue checked a book out of the school library called Lost Worlds. It was a book about ancient civilizations and had a picture of Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple in Egypt. She thought it was the most beautiful place she had ever seen and determined she would one day go there. In August of 1990, she fulfilled that dream.

During World War II the family moved to Renton, Washington, before returning to Hannibal, MO, where Sue finished her last two years of high school. She attended Hannibal LaGrange College, receiving her Elementary Teaching Certificate. She then taught school in Antonia, MO, for two years before attending Northeast Missouri State Teachers College to finish her teaching degree. While standing in the registration line on June 4, 1954, she met a smiling young man named Jack Magruder. On their first date Jack told her that he was going to marry her and that he dreamed of someday becoming a science education professor at the college. 10 weeks later, on August 4, 1954, they were married at First Baptist Church in Kirksville. And she did finish her degree, graduating from the college in May of 1955.

The next several years were spent moving around the country (Iowa, Colorado, California, Louisiana) while Jack pursued his Masters and Doctoral degrees, Sue taught elementary school, and they grew their family. In 1964 the family returned to Kirksville where Jack had been offered a job teaching in the science division at Northeast Missouri State College. Sue eventually completed her Masters Degree at Northeast Missouri State University with additional work at University of Missouri-Columbia.

Sue dedicated her life to education. She taught for 13 years at Northeast Missouri State University. She served 9 years as First Lady of Truman State University and 4 years as First Lady of A.T. Still University. She was an adult Sunday school teacher for 11 years and a literacy teacher in the Adair County Adult Education Program. As recently as the 2019/2020 school year Sue was a reading tutor through the Oasis program at Kirksville Primary School.

She always loved to travel, read, fish, and do jigsaw puzzles. A place of special meaning to the family was Yellowstone National Park. One of the recent trips in 2015 included 17 members of her family. In 1966 Jack and Sue built their house in the country east of Kirksville where they raised their children along with numerous horses, cattle, hogs, cats, and dogs. There they welcomed generations of students from around the world, and countless gatherings of friends and family. She raised her family with superb love and dedication, leaving a legacy of faith, hope, and love.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Cecil and Lottie, by her sister, Aleta Fountain, and brother, Dale Brimer. She is survived by her beloved husband of nearly 67 years, Willis Jackson Magruder. She is also survived by her 3 children, Julie Beth Magruder Lochbaum, Kerry Vaughn Magruder (Candace), and Laura Ellen Magruder Mann (Marvin). Grandchildren include James (Rojina) Lochbaum, Anna (Matthew) Matheney, Rachel (Stephen) Folmar, Hannah Magruder, Zac Burden, Susanna Magruder, Jackson (Brianna) Mann, Jonathan Mann, and a great-grandson, Maverick Mann.

In 1992 Jack heard the song “Look At Us” on the radio and hand copied the lyrics in a love letter to Sue. He was correct that their love was the embodiment of the song – and that love lives on.

Look at us after all these years together.
Look at us after all that we’ve been through.
Look at us still leaning on each other.
If you wanna see how true love should be then just look at us. Look at us still believing in forever…
If you wanna see how true love should be then just look at us.

Sue Magruder

There will be public visitation on Saturday, June 5 from 10:00 am to noon under the tent at Davis and Normal streets on the Truman State University campus. A June 14 memorial service will be live-streamed from First United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the Sue & Jack Magruder Scholarship fund at Truman State University or First United Methodist Church in Kirksville.

Mama's Memorial Service June 14, 2021 from Laura.

Update: On Mother’s 88th birthday, Saturday, June 26, Laura took this photo of a double rainbow over the homestead at Willis Creek Ranch. We take this as nature’s tribute.

Double rainbow over Willis Creek Ranch

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Phyllis Comstock, 1931-2021

Phyllis Loraine (Martin) Comstock, 89, of Memphis, Missouri, formerly of Downing, Missouri, went home to be with her sweet Jesus and her sweetheart, Junior, on Sunday, January 17, 2021 at Scotland County Care Center in Memphis, Missouri, after contracting COVID-19.

The daughter of Minor Franklin and Beulah Ruth (Eiffert) Martin, she was born on March 3, 1931 at her grandfather Ed Martin’s home east of Sublette in Adair County, Missouri. Her sister, Bernidene LaRue (Martin) Billiet, was born one year later. She attended rural Sperry School and later rural Brushy School after the family moved to a farm south of Downing, Missouri, in Schuyler County. Phyllis attended Downing High School, graduating with the class of 1949.

Phyllis Comstock Phyllis Comstock

On July 11, 1948 in Lancaster, Missouri, she was united in marriage to Tillman Comstock, Jr. They eventually purchased a farm in Scotland County northeast of Downing, Missouri. After losing their first child, Gary Lee, at birth, Phyllis and Junior raised three children on the farm, Cheryl Ann, Craig Alan, and Candace Lea. The family were members of the Downing Christian Church where Phyllis was active in Christian Women’s Auxiliary. Phyllis was a skilled homemaker, gardening and canning much of the family’s food and sewing many of their clothes. She loved tending her flowers and reading Louis L’Amour westerns. Phyllis enjoyed her years with the Chit Chat Club and the Red Hatters in Downing, Missouri. She and Junior were members of the National Farmers Organization (NFO). They loved to square dance, host pitch card parties and family gatherings, watch birds, deer hunt, and go camping and boating with friends at the lake. They enjoyed traveling to Oklahoma, to the mountains of Colorado, and to the Iowa State Fair. They especially loved spending time with their grandchildren.

Junior and Phyllis shared a deep abiding love for one another. She loved to hear him sing “You Are My Sunshine.” After Junior was paralyzed in a farm accident in 1985, Phyllis cared for him at home until he moved to Scotland County Care Center, Memphis, Missouri, in 2005. Junior passed away in 2008, shortly before their 60th wedding anniversary. In 2015, Phyllis moved to Scotland County Care Center, Memphis, Missouri.

Survivors include her children, Cheryl Eddleman and husband Mike of Kahoka, Missouri; Craig Comstock and wife Mary of Unionville, Missouri; and Candace Magruder and husband Kerry of Norman, Oklahoma. She is Grandma Sugar and Grandma Phyllis to 14 grandchildren: Shawn Erickson and wife Angela of Festus, Missouri; Nikki Worstell and husband Tommy of Blue Springs, Missouri; Laura Ussary and husband Brad of Kansas City, Missouri; Travis Eddleman of Olathe, Kansas; Clint Eddleman of Kahoka, Missouri; Kristi Eddleman of Kansas City, Missouri; Vanessa Whitaker and partner Dr. Shane Wilson of Memphis, Missouri; Jason Comstock and wife Irene of Jackson, Missouri; Andrew McCollom and wife KayLea of rural Unionville, Missouri; Matthew McCollom and wife Andrea of Kingwood, Texas; Jonathan McCollom and fiancé Kelly Foster of Roeland Park, Kansas; Rachel Folmar and husband Stephen of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Hannah Magruder of Kirksville, Missouri; Susanna Magruder of Norman, Oklahoma; as well as to 24 great grandchildren: Quincy and Schuler Erickson; Austin and Alyssa Schwent; Thomas, Jonathon, Timothy, and Hope Worstell; Brett and Seth Ussary and Lexi DeKraai-Ussary; Meadow, Carson, Payton, Mia, Avaya, and Aven Eddleman; Victoria and Clifford Whitaker; Kaitlyn Miller and husband Traven; Athena and Iris Comstock; Hudson and Porter McCollom; and two great great grandchildren Dennis and Ivy Miller. She is also survived by brother-in-law Charles Comstock and wife Ardis of Downing, Missouri; nieces, nephews, and other family members; and many good friends and neighbors.

Phyllis is preceded in death by her parents, Minor Martin on April 30, 1999 and Ruth Martin on April 5, 2005; her husband Junior Comstock on March 19, 2008; son Gary Lee Comstock; two premature infants; sister Bernidene Billiet and husband Gene; brother-in-law Derwood Comstock and wife Dorene; and grandson-in-law Dan DeKraai.

A Celebration of Life service will be scheduled at a later date when COVID restrictions permit. Online condolences may be expressed to the family by logging on to Arrangements are under the direction of the Norman Funeral Home of Lancaster, Missouri.

Phyllis Comstock

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Winter – Windham Hill

Winter, with Mark Isham, is one of my favorite early Windham Hill releases. We practically wore out our copy on VHS. In the thick of allergy seasons and the hot months of summers for many years gone by, it was magically restorative. Now I’m so glad to find it digitized. I’m posting it here to help me get through the next few months…

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Johann Kepler: Life and Works

As Curator of the exceptional Kepler collection at the OU History of Science Collections, I’ve been invited to give talks on Kepler to various audiences, including the 2013 Okie-Tex star party at Black Mesa, Oklahoma. Much as with similar talks on Copernicus and Galileo, this is framed as if we were in the vaults of the OU History of Science Collections, turning the pages of the beautiful rare books together. The talks are an introduction to these astronomers through their works. They synthesize scholarship in the history of science, pitched for an interested public at about the same level as a lecture in a history of science survey class.

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Copernicus and the Motion of the Earth

Back in 2005, I created a planetarium show, “Copernicus and His Revolutions,” for the Cosmology and Cultures Project of the OBU Planetarium (available here).

Soon after that, as Curator of the remarkable Copernicus collection at the OU History of Science Collections, I was invited to give talks on Copernicus to various physics and astronomy programs around the country. A version of this Copernicus talk has been presented at Michigan State University (2007), Florida State University (2008), and at the Okie-Tex star party near Black Mesa (2009), among others.

Much as with similar talks on Kepler and Galileo, this talk is framed as if we were in the vaults of the Collections, turning the pages of the beautiful rare books together, in order to see what stories are evident in the works themselves. These talks introduce these astronomers through their works. They synthesize scholarship in the history of science, pitched for an interested public at about the same level as a lecture in a history of science survey class.

A PDF handout contains quotations, names of people mentioned, resources for further reading, and question prompts for discussion and reflection.

This presentation is too long to watch in one session. Take breaks between any of the 10 major sections to stretch your legs and process what has been presented. The final two sections offer questions for reflection and resources for further reading.

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My work in the library

We have a new incoming dean of libraries, arriving in May. She asked every library employee to respond to several questions. Here are my responses.

How do you contribute to University Libraries?

I tell stories that connect people with the wonderful, humane, creative, instructive and ongoing story of science and scientific culture. Libraries are not only about curating and communicating information, they are also places of meaning. Stories provide meaning. Stories invite participation, and the construction of new stories.

Here’s an example of what that looks like in practice: We had an exhibit in 2015 about Galileo. As a result, I held full-day workshops for several years for teachers in a NASA space grant program. One elementary teacher who had participated was working with a second grade student who could not yet read. The teacher shared with the girl stories about the stars. They inspired her so much that she created her own story about the stars, about a constellation she called “Hoot the Owl.” Then the girl wanted to learn to write in order to make her own book about her new constellation. “Hoot the Owl” is now my favorite constellation; you can read her story, “How the Constellation Hoot the Owl Began,” just the way she wrote it, with her family’s permission, here: Without doubt, my favorite outcome of the Galileo’s World exhibit was that it inspired this 2nd grade student in El Reno to learn to read and write.

What do you like most about your job?

The variety of people I encounter. Here is an example, expressed as a contrast between two libraries:

I remember one summer day I arrived at the front door of the —- Library in —, –. It was before 8 a.m., so that I could make best use of my one day visit. The moment the doors opened, I was invited inside and began the registration process, which was expedited for me, both because their history of science curator was a friend of mine and because I had visited the library (but not the reading room) before. Yet after I completed all the forms, answered all the questions, sat for a mug-shot, and signed a contract to credit them in the publication that would result, it was more than two hours later when I saw the inside of the reading room.

That very same summer, on a rainy day, a massive six-foot-four construction worker, perhaps in his mid-50’s with grey hair flowing down to his shoulders, a full grey beard, and a round cheerful face that would do credit to Santa Claus, walked in to the History of Science Collections. Whenever his construction site would close due to weather, he enjoyed coming in to see if we could bring him anything in Anglo Saxon. With no university education, he had taught himself to read it and translating it was his passion. He would spend all day translating whatever it was into his beloved paper notepad. Whenever I walked by our reading room and saw him there, it was as if a bard from the age of Beowulf was come back to life. Yet he would never have been allowed entrance to the —‘s reading room. Instead of an elite and exclusive private institution, we are a public research university library that welcomes all.

What UL accomplishment are you most proud of?

There are two that stand out head and shoulders above all others: open access and archives.

1. When I began working for the libraries in June 2000, image requests that came in during my first month on the job made clear to me how many creative uses images from our books could be put to by resourceful researchers, artists, and lay persons in unexpected pursuits. Since that time, it was my goal to make it a distinctive reputation of the OU History of Science Collections to serve these needs. It was a service appropriate to our home within a public research university library. It was also an advertising and promotional strategy that money couldn’t buy — to increase the visibility of a special collection with international reach located obscurely in a flyover state. That very summer, a PBS documentary on Galileo began production that would eventually list us as the first institutional credit. Fast forward to 2011, when the most important book on Copernicus to be published in the last 50 years included this sentence in the preface: “I wish to register special thanks to the University of Oklahoma History of Science Collections for its enlightened policy of making available free online use of visual material from its rich collections of rare primary sources.” At that time, we had roughly 60,000 print-quality images available for download (in contrast, our current repository does not yet support direct downloads of print-quality images). But while we had an opinion from OU Legal that agreed to direct downloads, the images were copyrighted, and the question of their continued availability always seemed precarious. Then in 2014, Rick Luce became Dean of Libraries, and the very first month on the job he visited Berlin to open a collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science to co-develop an open access academic series of primary source editions. Under Luce, OU Legal approved a blanket policy of open access applied to all of our images, including the History of Science materials in the repository.

2. The History of Science Collections have long held interesting archives, including the papers of Jens Rud Nielsen (who studied with Niels Bohr before helping to found the physics program at OU); papers related to meteorology (including the National Severe Storms Laboratory here in Norman); papers relating to geology (such as the Alexander Ospovat Collection on Abraham Werner and German mineralogy in the 18th century); and papers on technology (such as those on the development of RAM memory and other computer technology during the post-WW2 years). The problem was that these archives were not processed and therefore not available to scholars. We also stood on the sidelines when important archives went to other institutions or languished unpreserved. All that changed just about three years ago. We are now beginning processing, learning ArchiveSpace (thanks to Bailey Hoeffner!), and have launched an initiative that I believe is a strategic and mission-critical priority for us: a new History of Geology Archive. A distinguishing feature of this archive is that it offers a home for the papers of historians of geology that will benefit future researchers. This year the archive will begin to be available to the public featuring the papers of the three most prominent and distinguished historians of geology in the world (measured by lifetime achievement awards from the geological societies of America, England, France, and Russia)…. Before the pandemic, we already had two visiting scholars use the archive even as it was being processed. Once we begin to publicize it this coming fall, it will solidify our place as one of the leading centers in the world for research in the history of the earth sciences.

These seem to me truly to be the two most significant achievements for the History of Science Collections in my career.

What is your favorite UL memory?

When you walk into the Marilyn B. Ogilvie Room on the 5th floor, take a close look at the portrait that hangs on the wall. Marilyn was the second curator of the History of Science Collections (Duane Roller was the first). I was blown away when she asked me one day if I would be interested in becoming her assistant. I jumped at the chance, and with Dean Sul Lee’s offer I turned down pursuit of an opportunity to go to the university in my home town, although I am very close to family there. Marilyn was one of my chief mentors academically; she served on my dissertation committee. But more than that, I remember as a graduate student (spending inordinate time in the Collections) the moment she became curator, for that was when the atmosphere of the History of Science Collections opened up to be a safe and welcoming place for all of us, and for visitors of all kinds, including external school and community groups. I came on board in 2000, and became curator myself in 2009, but those precious years of working side-by-side with Marilyn will always mean more to me than my own tenure as curator. Marilyn is truly the “face” of the OU History of Science Collections. For in all I do in the Collections, I do out of gratitude for what Marilyn and Ken Taylor and Duane Roller and a few other mentors here at OU have meant to me. Gratitude is why I came to the Libraries, and that is why I am still here. Here is a photo of the painting and an interview I did with Marilyn:

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Gabriele Beati and Jesuit Cosmology

This long-ago presentation was the banquet address for 2005 at the 48th annual meeting of the Midwest Junto for the History of Science. A later version was published as Kerry V. Magruder, “Jesuit Science after Galileo: The Cosmology of Gabriele Beati,” Centaurus 2009, 51: 189-212.

The research about global sections mentioned in the talk was later published in two related articles: Kerry V. Magruder, “Global Visions and the Establishment of Theories of the Earth,” Centaurus 2006, 48: 234-257; and a sequel, Kerry V. Magruder, “The Idiom of a Six Day Creation and Global Depictions in Theories of the Earth,” in Martina Kölb-Ebert, ed., Geology and Religion: Historical Views of an Intense Relationship between Harmony and Hostility, Geological Society of London Special Publications, no. 310 (London: The Geological Society of London, 2009), 49-66.

While the last two decades have seen an explosion of research in Jesuit science, perhaps this talk might still be of interest. For more recent work, however, see Christopher Graney, Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo; and Mark Wadell, Jesuit Science and the End of Nature’s Secrets; among many others.

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