It may perhaps be of interest to say that while doing investigation in anatomy and certain other sciences allied to medicine, [Nicholas] Steno became a convert to the Catholic Church and after some years became a priest. Before his ordination, however, though after his conversion, he received the call to the chair of anatomy at Copenhagen. He accepted this and worked for several years at the Danish University, but was dissatisfied with the state of affairs around him as regards religion and went back to Italy. Eventually he was made a bishop–hence the curious picture of him in a Roman Catholic Bishop’s robes in the collection of pictures of professors of anatomy at the University of Copenhagen. Not long after, at his own request, he was sent up to the Northern part of Germany in order to try to bring back to the Church as many of the Germans as might be won by his gentleness of disposition, his saintly character, his wonderful scientific knowledge, and his winning ways.

He is the Father of Modern Geology as well as a great anatomist, and his little book on geology was published after he became a priest, yet did not hamper in any way his ecclesiastical preferment nor alienate him from his friends in the hierarchy. He was honored especially by the Popes. In a word, his career is the best possible disproof of any Papal or ecclesiastical opposition to science in his time.


James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)


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