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The 35 Lunar Craters
Named to Honor Jesuit Scientists


When astronauts in our lunar orbiter described the rough terrain beneath them they had to use Jesuit names. That Jesuit lun-nautics had preceded them was evident from the fact that 35 lunar craters had been named to honor Jesuits; and some of these craters are large enough to be seen from earth by naked (but sharp) eye. In fact at some time or other at least 40 Jesuit names were used and some are clusters of craters e.g. Cysat A,B,C,D; so there were even more than 40 craters named for Jesuits. Who are these men, and what did they do to merit this honor?

Visit the Jesuit Resource Page for even more links to things Jesuit.


At the entrance to the Smithsonian's Moon exhibit is a large copy of one of the earliest (1651) selenographs. This map taken from a Jesuit book Almagestum novum was composed by the Jesuit astronomers Riccioli and Grimaldi and across the top is written: "Neither do men inhabit the moon nor do souls migrate there". It is the best known of all selenographs and has been used by most scholars for lunar nomenclature for three centuries. During these centuries astronomers took turns naming and renaming craters which resulted in conflicting lunar maps. In 1922 the International Astronomical Union (I A U) was formed, and eventually eliminated these conflicts and codified all lunar objects: 35 of the 40 Jesuit names survived to be listed in the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) catalog which identifies about 1600 points on the moon's surface.
It would be a mistake to think that the Jesuit names are on selenographs only because other Jesuits put them there. Rather it was a convergence of astronomers' opinions over three centuries: map makers before and after Riccioli confirmed the decisions again and again that these 40 men deserved this honor. This is not surprising. Recent histories emphasize the enormous influence Jesuits had not only on mathematics but on the other developing sciences such as astronomy. Historians of science always listed a surprisingly large number of Jesuits among the greatest scientists and mathematicians of all time. They were at the cutting edge of the sciences. For instance, by the time of the suppression in 1773, of the world's 130 astronomy observatories, 30 were operated by Jesuits. Furthermore Jesuit names are still being added to the list by the I. A. U.

The Selenograph of Riccioli and Grimaldi showing many of the Jesuit craters

The locations of 35 lunar craters named after Jesuits. Since 1645 selenographers had named at least 40 craters to honor Jesuits, but 5 have been renamed since then. Some of the craters ( arrow ) are on the far side of the moon. When looking at the moon these craters can be located by eye when noting their position relative to the large Copernicus (O) crater with the distinctive "crater steaks" radiating from it like the stem of an orange.
At the entrance to the Smithsonian's Moon exhibit is a large copy of one of the earliest and best known selenographs shown above. This map was composed by the Jesuit astronomers Riccioli and Grimaldi and across the top is written: "Neither do men inhabit the moon nor do souls migrate there". In 1922 the International Astronomical Union ( I. A. U.) codified all lunar objects: 35 of the 40 Jesuit names survived to be listed in the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) catalog. This is not surprising because of the impact Jesuits had on astronomy. For instance, by the year 1773, 30 of the world's 130 astronomy observatories were operated by Jesuits. Furthermore Jesuit names are still being added to the list by the I. A. U.

Sources of the charts below

In the chart below I list the 35 Jesuit names as they are spelled in the NASM and Wilkins maps, along with the locations and diameters of the craters. I then put corresponding numbers on a lunar map to locate approximately these 35 craters. Some of the names on on the far side of the moon which we never see from earth because of the strange fact that the moon's spin on its own axis exactly matches one revolution around the earth. I could not find all the data on each of the men but more information can be found in the writings of the Belgian Jesuit Omar Van Der Vyver, former superior at the Specola Vaticana.

The Men

These men all taught and wrote books on astronomy, physics and mathematics. Many of the books they wrote are still extant. During the first two centuries of Jesuit history there were 631 Jesuit authors of geometry books alone! Some of these authors wrote many books: Kircher 39, Boscovich 151 - huge books bigger than lectionaries. Some of these men are much better remembered today than others.

Roger Boscovich developed the first coherent description of an atomic theory which is one of the great attempts to explain the universe in a single idea. His influence on modern atomic physics is undoubted and his many works are kept as the Boscovich Archives in the Bancroft library of rare books at Berkeley. He lived in a time when when mathematicians were expected to fix things so he was commissioned by popes and emperors to do such jobs as repair the fissures in cathedral domes and survey meridians of the Papal states. The Jesuit General Laurence Ricci made Boscovich a Visitor for the whole Society and it was Boscovich's influence that minimized the hostility of Catholic churchmen to the Copernican system. He did not suffer fools gladly so when shown the treasures of the Jesuit school at Sens which included a rib of the prophet Isaiah, he told the rector to throw it away in the interest of truth. After the Suppression of the Jesuits, Boscovich became a captain in the French navy and was able to travel through France using a salvus conductus given him by Louis XV.

Christopher Clavius was the most influential teacher of the Renaissance and numbered among his admirers Viete, Kepler and Galileo. It was Clavius' support for the heliocentric theory that was the predominant influence making it acceptable among the learned. Clavius encouraged a number of mathematical developments: the decimal point, parenthesis, use of logarithms and the vernier scale. It was Clavius who replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian calendar.

Later mathematicians such as Leibniz became interested in mathematics by reading his works. His Geometry book became the standard text in the 16th and l7th Century European schools and led to his being called the "Euclid of the l6th Century".

Francesco Grimaldi discovered diffraction and anticipated the invention of the diffraction grating. He was one of the earliest physicists to suggest that light was wave-like in nature. and he formulated a geometrical basis for a wave theory of light. His treatise attracted Isaac Newton to the study of optics.

Christopher Grienberger, Clavius' successor, verified Galileo's discovery of the four moons of Jupiter, then later in 1611 he organized a convocation honoring Galileo. At this gathering of cardinals, princes and scholars, the students of Clavius and Grienberger expounded Galileo's discoveries to the delight of Galileo. He said that if Galileo had heeded the advice of the Jesuits and proposed his teachings as hypotheses, he could have written on any subject he wished, including the rotation of the earth.

Maximilian Hell was director of the astronomy observatory in Vienna. After the Suppression of the Jesuits he continued working there as director, along with other members of the Society. He fell victim to the public defamation of Jesuits then in vogue when he was accused of altering his findings during a transit of Venus. His name was not cleared until a century later when in 1883 the famous astronomer Simon Newcomb found his readings to be correct, and his scholarship above suspicion.

Athanasius Kircher with his contributions to mathematics, astronomy, harmonics, acoustics, chemistry, microscopy and medicine played a significant part in the early scientific revolution. His Kircher Museum was considered one of the best science museums in the world. His discoveries include sea phosphorescence, microscopically small living organisms and the causes of transfer of epidemic diseases. It was in facilitating a wide diffusion of knowledge by his vast collections of scientific information, that Kircher deserves a place among the fathers of modern science, and the titles of "universal genius and master of a hundred arts".

Matteo Ricci made western developments in mathematics available to the Chinese and published in 1584 the first maps of China available to the west. For the first time the Chinese had an idea of the distribution of oceans and land masses. He introduced trigonometric and astronomical instruments and translated the first six books of Euclid into Chinese. He is remembered for his Chinese works on religious and moral topics as well as works on scientific topics. The Encyclopedia Britannica reports: "Probably no European name of past centuries is so well known in China as that of Li-ma-teu (Ricci Matteo)."

Christopher Scheiner discovered sunspots independently of Galileo but erroneously thought they were small planets. He explained the elliptical form of the sun near the horizon as the effect of refraction. He showed that the retina is the seat of vision. His invention for magnifying maps, the pantograph, can still be purchased in stationary stores. He gave one of his telescopes to the archduke of Tyrol who was more interested in the scenery than in stars and complained that the image was inverted. Scheiner inserted another lens to invert the image again and so created one of the first terrestrial telescopes.

Andre Tacquet was a brilliant mathematician of international repute whose books were frequently reprinted and translated. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London refer to his Opera mathematica as "one of the best books ever written in mathematics". His use of the method of exhaustion pointed the way to the limit process and helped prepare for the discovery of calculus.

Nicolas Zucchi was held in such great esteem he was sent as a papal legate to the court of the Emperor Ferdinand II in part because of his invention of the reflecting telescope. In Zucchi's time this creative ability was expected of Jesuits whereas today educated people are surprised at the accomplishments of past Jesuits because we Jesuits are reluctant to engage in what seems to be unabashed triumphalism. It is simply considered bad form: so our students and fellow faculty members are kept in the dark about an important facet of Jesuit Tradition.

Two charts of the craters named to honor Jesuits:

One is taken from the National Air and Space Museum (N A S M) catalog, the other from Carl Sommervogel, S.J. Recently the International Astronomical Union (I A U) codified lunar nomenclature eliminating conflicts: 5 Jesuit names were deleted, bringing the present number to 35. There may have been other Jesuit names in the past and there will certainly be more Jesuit names in the future.
35 Jesuit Lunar Craters (plus five more)
name/ nationality born time/city died time/city field

Mario Bettini (Italian)
1582 in Bologna 1657 in Bologna math/astr

Jacques de Billy (French)
1602 in Compiegne 1679 in Dijon math/phys

Giuseppe Biancani (Italian)
1566 in Bologne 1624 in Parme math/astr

Roger J Boscovich (Croatian)
1711 in Ragusa 1787 in Milan math/phys

Nicolas Cabei (Italian)
1586 in Ferrare 1650 in Genes phys/astr

Christopher Clavius (German)
1538 in Bamberg 1612 in Rome math/phys

Jean-Baptiste Cysat (Swiss)
1588 in Lucerne 1657 in Lucerne math/phys

Francois de Vico (French)
1805 in Macerata 1848 in London astr

Gyula Fenyi (Hungarian)
1845 1927 astr

George Fournier (French)
1595 in Caen 1652 in laFleche math

Francesco Grimaldi (Italian)
1613 in Bologna 1663 in Bolognia phys

Chris. Grienberger (Swiss)
1564 in Tyrol 1636 in Rome astr

Johann Hagen (Austrian)
1847 in Bregenz 1930 in Rome astr

Maximilian Hell (Hungarian)
1720 in Schemnitz 1792 in Vienna phys/astr

Athanasius Kircher (German)
1602 in Geisa 1680 in Rome science

Francis X Kugler (German)
1862 in Konigsburg 1929 in Lucern hist/math

Charles Malapert (French)
1580 in Mons 1630 in Victoria math/philos

Christian Mayer (German)
1719 1783 astr/math

Paul McNally (American)
1890 1955 astr

Theodore Moretus (Belgian)
1601 in Antwerp 1667 in Breslau math

Denis Petau (French)
1583 in Orleans 1652 in Paris hist/astr

Jean-Bap. Riccioli (Italian)
1598 in Ferrara 1671in Bologna selenograph

Matteo Ricci (Italian)
1552 in Mavrata 1610 in Peking math/geog

Rodes* (Hungarian)
1881 1939 astr

Romana* (Spanish)

Christophe Scheiner (German)
1575 in Wald 1650 in Neiss math/phys

George Schomberger (German)
1597 in Innsbruck 1645 in Hradisch math/astr

Ange Secchi (Italian)
1818 in Reggio 1878 in Rome astrophys

Hughues Semple (Scottish)
1596 in Ecosse 1654 in Madrid math

Gerolamo Sirsalis (Italian)
1584 1654 selenography

Andre Tacquet (Belgian)
1612 in Antwerp 1660 in Antwerp math

Adam Tannerus (Austrian)
1572 in Innsbruck 1632 in Tyrol math/theol

Nicolas Zucchi (Italian)
1586 in Parmo 1670 in Rome math/astr

Jean-Baptiste Zupi (Italian)
1590 in Catanzaro 1650 in Naples astr

Johan Stein (Dutch)
1871 in Grave 1951 in Rome astr/phy


Andre Arzet (French)
1604 in Constance 1675 in Constance  

Daniello Bartoli (Italian)
1608 in Ferrara 1685 in Rome  

Jean Derienes (French)
1591 in Dieppe 1662 la Fleche  



    NASM name latitude longitude diameter
    Bettinus 63.4s 315.2e 71.4 km
    Billy 13.8s 309.9e 45.7 km
    Blancanus 63.6s 338.5e 105.3 km
    Boscovich 9.8n 11.1e 46.0 km
    Cabaeus 84.9s 324.5e 98.4 km
    Clavius 58.4s 345.6e 225.0 km
    Cysatus 66.2s 353.9e 48.8 km
    De Vico 19.7s 299.8e 20.3 km
    Fenyi 44.9s 254.9e 39.0 km
    Furnerius 36.3s 60.4e 125.2 km
    Grimaldi 5.2s 291.4e 410.0 km
    Gruemberger 66.9s 350.0e 93.6 km
    Hagen 48.3s 135.1e 55.5 km
    Hell 32.4s 352.2e 33.3 km
    Kircher 67.1s 314.7e 72.5 km
    Kugler 53.8s 103.7e 65.8 km
    Malapert 84.9s 12.9e 69.0 km
    Mayer 63.2n 17.3e 38.0 km
    McNally 22.6n 232.8e 47.5 km
    Moretus 70.6s 354.5e 114.4 km
    Petavius 25.3s 60.4e 176.6 km
    Riccioli 3.0s 285.7e 145.5 km
    Riccius 36.9s 26.5e 70.6 km
    Rodes* 23.0n 283.0e
    Romana* 21.0s 33.0e 33.6 km
    Scheiner 60.5s 332.2e 110.4 km
    Schomberger 76.7s 24.9e 85.0 km
    Secchi 2.4n 43.5e 22.7 km
    Simpelius 73.0s 15.2e 70.4 km
    Sirsalis 12.5s 299.6e 42.0 km
    Stein 7.2n 179.0e 33.7 km
    Tacquet 16.6n 19.2e 6.6 km
    Tannerus 56.4s 22.0e 28.6 km
    Zucchius 61.4s 309.7e 64.2 km
    Zupus 17.2s 307.7e 38.0 km

    * Not found in (NASM) catalog but is in the1960 Wilkins Moon Map

    The map and charts are taken from page 74 of Jesuit Geometers by Joseph MacDonnell, S.J. of Fairfield University. This book concerns the impact the 56 most prominent pre-Suppression Jesuit geometers had on the development of mathematics and science. It is published jointly by the Publications of the Vatican Observatory and The Institute of Jesuit Sources .

    The 35 lunar craters named to honor Jesuit Scientists
    Post-Pombal Portugal opinion of Pre-Pombal Jesuit Scientists
    Roger Boscovich and his presentation ofatomic theory two centuries ago
    Christopher Clavius and his Gregorian calendar
    The Mezmerizing adventures of Maximilian Hell
    Athanasius Kircher Master of a Thousand Arts
    Franscesco Lana-Terzi Father of Aeronautics
    Francis Line the hunted dial-maker
    Ferdinand Verbiest Director of the Imperial Observatory
    Ignatius, Nadal and Perspective Art
    Jose Acosta Pioneer of the Geophysical Sciences
    Seismology: The Jesuit Science
    Saccheri's Solution to Euclid's BLEMISH Origins of Non-Euclidean Geometry
    Hyperbolic Geometry Theorems of Girolamo Saccheri, S.J.

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