The thirteenth century saw the rise of a number of great physical scientists, who made observations that anticipated much more of our modern views on scientific problems than is usually thought…While Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus were working in France and Germany, Roger Bacon was doing work of similar nature at Oxford in England. Altogether, he has eighteen treatises on chemical problems. Some of these contain wonderful anticipations of modern chemistry. After Roger Bacon came Raymond Lully, who wrote, in all, sixteen treatises on chemical subjects. At about the same time, Arnold of Villanova was teaching medicine at Paris and paying special attention to chemistry. From him there are twenty-one treatises on chemical subjects still extant. Arnold of Villanova died on the way to visit Pope Clement V., the immediate predecessor of John, who lay sick unto death at Avignon.

It is evident, then, that there was no spirit of opposition to chemistry gradually forming itself in ecclesiastical circles, and about to be expressed in a decree by John [XXII]. The chemists of the thirteenth century had been among the most distinguished churchmen of the period. One of them at least, Thomas Aquinas, had been declared a saint. Another, Albertus Magnus, has been given the title of Blessed, signifying that his life and works are worthy of all veneration. Pope John XXII. had as a young man been a student of these men at the University of Paris, and would surely have imbibed the tradition of their interest in the physical sciences. That he should have unlearned all their lessons seems out of the question.

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


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