It has been so often stated that Maya science was lost largely because of the extermination or driving out of the native priests after the Spanish conquest that it is of special interest to note in the documents of the 1562 proceedings that a large number of these priests were still living and secretly practicing their profession. Only once are local priests named as taking part in human sacrifices at the pueblo of Sotuta, but we find three assisting priests from Yaxcaba and Tixcacaltuya also taking part. At Kanchunup six priests are named, at Mopila five, Yaxaca four, Tibolon four, Usil two, and at Sahcaba only one. All but two at Mopila had Christian names and had evidently been baptized; and one of the Usil priests, Juan Pech, had learned his profession while acting as schoolmaster, an office which he still held.

Pressure by the missionaries no doubt diminished the number of neophytes as time went on; but it now seems probable that the disappearance of Maya religious and scientific lore was very gradual and Maya astronomy in course of time gave way to European astrology, of which we find much in later Books of Chilam Balam. From the 1562 inquiry we learn that the local schoolmasters were frequently present at human sacrifices and reports made by the encomenderos to the king in 1579 still accuse these men of being great idolaters and even keeping idols in the schoolhouse. There can be little doubt that this class continued to carry on the old traditions for a long time and were the men who compiled the so-called Books of Chilam Balam and kept them in circulation.

Religious syncretism was obviously developing in Yucatin as early as 1562 when sacrificial victims were also crucified in the European manner.

Richard E. Greenleaf, “Persistence of Native Values: The Inquisition and the Indians of Colonial Mexico,” The Americas, vol. 50.3 (1994)


For by the summer of 1929, red-haired Peg Looney was not at all well. The teeth extractions that never healed had only been the start of it; she’d developed anemia and then this pain had settled in her hip so that now she could barely walk…Peg was wasting away, and her family watched in horror as she pulled teeth and parts of her jaw from her mouth. […]

Radium Dial – warned by Kjaer that Peg’s was a special case in which the government was particularly interested – watched her very closely. They knew she had tested positive for radioactivity in 1925 and 1928; they knew from their own medical tests exactly what was wrong with her. And so, when Peg collapsed at work on August 6, 1929, Mr. Reed made arrangements for her to be admitted to the company doctor’s hospital. […]

At 2:10 a.m. on August 14, 1929, Margaret Looney died…It seems the firm was concerned that Peg’s death would be attributed to radium poisoning, which would scare all the girls at the studio and possibly lead to innumerable lawsuits. The executives needed to take control of the situation. What did the family think, they asked, of having Peg autopsied?…They readily agreed, on condition that their own family doctor could be present, because they wanted to find out the truth. Their proviso was all-important: after the firm’s midnight machinations [to steal Peg’s body], they did not trust them. The company doctor agreed easily. Yes, yes, they said, no problem. What time?

When the family doctor arrived at the appointed hour, bag in hand, he found the autopsy had been performed an hour before he got there. He wasn’t there to see the multiple fracture lines on Peg’s ribs, nor the way “the flat bones of [her] skull showed numerous ‘thin’ areas as ‘holes.’” He didn’t examine the radium necrosis that was found “very strongly” in the skull vault, pelvis, and at least sixteen other bones. He did not witness the widespread skeletal changes that were evident throughout Peg’s battered body. He was not there to see as the company doctor “removed by post-mortem resection” the remains of Peg Looney’s jaw.

He took her bones. He took the most compelling evidence.

The family was not sent a copy of the report, but Radium Dial received one…”The teeth are in excellent condition,” read the official autopsy report. “There is no evidence of any destructive bone changes in the upper or lower jaw.” her death certificate was duly signed: diphtheria was the cause of death. […]

In 1978, researchers exhumed Peg’s body from St. Columba Cemetary, where she had been resting alongside her parents. They discovered she had 19,500 microcuries of radium in her bones – one of the highest quantities found. It was more than 1,000 times the amount scientists then considered safe.

Kate Moore, The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (2017)

[T]he firm had in its possession the results of the radioactivity tests of all the women at Radium Dial, taken back in 1928. The results that showed that, of the sixty-seven girls tested that day, thirty-four were suspiciously or positively radioactive. Thirty-four women: more than half the workforce.

The company had said in its press statement at the time; “Nothing even approaching symptoms ]of radium poisoning] has ever been found.” That declaration was not some miscalculation, caused by a misunderstanding of the data. The data was clear: most of the employees were radioactive – a telltale sign of radium poisoning. But though the women’s breath betrayed the truth, the company had deliberately and unashamedly lied.

The company still had the women’s names on its secret list of results, each numbered according to how radioactive she was.

Kate Moore, The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (2017)

[O]n April 22, three days before the trial was to resume, they were summoned to a compulsory examination by the [radium] company doctors…Grace flinched as they pricked her with a needle to take her blood. She was constantly afraid of anything that might result in cuts or bruises, for her skin no longer healed. Some dial-painters had “paper-thin skin that literally would split open if simply brushed by a fingernail.” A week later, Grace realized she had been right to worry: in the place where the doctors had pricked her, the flesh surrounding the puncture mark was black.

During the examination, radioactivity tests were conducted, the equipment deliberately positioned “so that the table itself was between large portions of the patient’s body and the instrument.” Flinn also “held the instrument two to three feet from the subject, allowing the radiation to dissipate before reaching the device.” Unsurprisingly, the company’s verdict was that none of the women was radioactive.

Kate Moore, The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (2017)

The doctors started with [Amelia Maggia’s] upper jawbones, which were removed in several pieces; they had no need to do the same with her lower jaw, for it was no longer present, having been lifted out in life. They sawed through her spine, her head, her ribs. They scraped her bones with a knife to prepare them for the next steps…When they checked the x-ray film, days, later, there was Mollie’s message from beyond the grave. She had been trying to speak for so long – now, at last there was someone listening. Her bones had made white pictures on the ebony film. Her vertebrae glowed in vertical white lights, like a regiment of matches slowly burning into black. They looked like rows of shining dial-painters, walking home from work. The pictures of her skull, meanwhile, with her jawbone missing, made her mouth stretch unnaturally wide, as though she was screaming – screaming for justice through all these years….”Each and every portion of tissue tested,” the doctors concluded, “gave evidence of radioactivity”.

Kate Moore, The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (2017)

This is indeed a very curious state of affairs in history. First, it is solemnly declared, that certain bulls and Papal documents were directed deliberately against the sciences of anatomy and chemistry by the Head of the Church, who wished to prevent the development of these sciences lest they should lessen his power over his people. Then, when it is shown that the documents in question have no such tenor, but are simple Papal regulations for the prevention of abuses which had arisen, and that they actually did accomplish much good for generations for which they were issued, the reply is not an acknowledgement of error, but an insistence on the previous declaration, somewhat in this form: “Well, the Popes may not have intended it, but these sciences, as a consequence of their decrees, did not develop, and the Popes must be considered as to blame for that.” Then, instead of showing that these sciences did not develop, this part is assumed and the whole case is supposed to be proved. Could anything well be more preposterous. And this is history!…

Since, however, an aspersion has been cast upon the progress of chemistry during the Middle Ages, and since it will surely be thought by many people that, if chemistry did not happen to interest mankind at that time, it must have been because the Pope was opposed to it (for such seems to be the curious chain of reasoning of certain scholars), it has seemed well to review briefly the story of chemistry during the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. More will be said about it in the chapter on Science at the Medieval Universities, and here the only idea is to bring out the fact that men were interested in what we now call chemical problems; that whatever interest they had was absolutely unhampered by ecclesiastical opposition; that indeed the very men who did the best work in this line, and their work is by no means without significance in the history of science, were all clergymen; and that most of them were in high favor with the Popes, and some of them have since received the honor of being canonized as saints.

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

The modern American historian of Theology and Science says, “for over a thousand years surgery was considered dishonorable.” For the sake of contrast with this opinion of President White’s, read for a moment the following remarks which constitute the opening sentences of Pagel’s paragraphs on Surgery from 1200 to 1500, in Puschmann’s Handbuch of the History of Medicine, already referred to. Before making the quotation, let me recall attention to the fact that Professor Pagel is the best informed living writer on the history of medicine. This book was issued in 1902. It is universally conceded to contain the last words on the history of medical development. There is no doubt at all about its absolute authoritativeness. President White has been calling on his imagination; Professor Pagel has consulted original documents in the history of surgery. He says:

“A more favorable star shone during the whole Middle Ages over surgery than over practical medicine. The representatives of this specialty succeeded earlier than did the practical physicians in freeing themselves from the ban of scholasticism. In its development a more constant and more even progress cannot fail to be seen. The stream of literary works on surgery flows richer during this period. While the surgeons are far from being able to emancipate themselves from the ruling pathological theories, there is no doubt that in one department, that of manual technics, free observation came to occupy the first place in the effort for scientific progress. Investigation is less hampered and concerns itself with practical things and not with artificial theories. Experimental observation was in this not repressed by an unfortunate and iron-bound appeal to reasoning.[…] Indeed, the lack of so-called scholarship, the freshness of view free from all prejudice with which surgery, uninfluenced by scholastic presumption, was forced to enter upon the objective consideration of things, while most of the surgeons brought with them to their calling an earnest vocation in union with great technical facility, caused surgery to enter upon ways in which it secured, as I have said, greater relative success than did practical medicine.”

President White has evidently never bothered to look into a history of surgery at all, or he would not have fallen into the egregious error of saying that the period from 1200 to 1400 was barren of surgery, for it is really one of the most important periods in the development of modern surgery.

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

It is with regard to surgery that the opposition of the Church is sometimes supposed to have been most serious in its effects upon the progress of medical science and its applications for the relief of human suffering…

President White insists over and over again that whatever surgery there was, and especially whatever progress was made in surgery, was due to the Arabs, or at least to Arabian initiative. Gurlt, in his History of Surgery, which we have referred to elsewhere, is very far from sharing this view. I need scarcely say that Gurlt is one of our best authorities in the history of surgery. In his sketch of Roger, the first of the great Italian surgeons of the thirteenth century who came after the foundation of the universities, Gurlt says that, “though Arabian writings on surgery had been brought over to Italy by Constantine Africanus a hundred years before Roger’s time, those exercised no influence over Italian surgery in the next century, and there is not a trace of the surgical knowledge of the Arabs to be found in Roger’s work.” His writing depends almost entirely upon the surgical traditions of his time, the experience of his teachers and colleagues, to whom in two places he has given due credit, and on the Greek writers. There are no traces of Arabisms to be found in Roger’s writing, while they are full of Grecisms. Roger represents the first important writer on surgery in modern times, and his works have been printed several times because of their value as original documents.

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

What is of special interest to us here, however, in this volume, is the fact that Pope John [XXII] gave all the weight of the Papal authority, the most important influence of the time in Europe, to the encouragement of medical schools, the maintenance of a high standard in them, and the development of scientific medicine. At this time medicine included many of the physical sciences as we know them at the present time. Botany, mineralogy, climatology, even astrology, as astronomy was then called, were the subjects of study by physicians, the last named because of the supposed influence of the stars on the human constitution. Because of his encouragement of medical schools and his emphatic insistence on their maintaining high standards, Pope John must be commended as a patron of science and as probably having exerted the most beneficial influence in his time on education.

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

At this time Morgagni was looked upon by all the medical world as probably the greatest of living medical scientists. Visitors who came to Italy who were at all interested in science, always considered that their journey had not been quite complete unless they had had an opportunity of meeting Morgagni. He had more personal friends among the scientists of all the countries of Europe than any other man of his time. The fact that this leader in science should be at the same time a great personal friend of the Popes of his time is the best possible evidence of the more than amicable relations which existed between the Church and medicine during this century. Morgagni’s life of nearly ninety years indeed, covers most of the eighteenth century, and is of itself, without more ado, an absolute proof that there was not only no friction between religion and medicine, but shows on the contrary that medical science encountered patronage and encouragement as far as ecclesiastics were concerned, while success in it brought honor and emolument. Morgagni’s personal relations to the Church are best brought out by the fact that, of his fifteen children, ten of whom lived to adult life, eight daughters became members of religious orders and one of his two surviving sons became a Jesuit. The great physician was very proud and very glad that his children should have chosen what he did not hesitate to call the better part.

After Morgagni’s time, the days of the French Revolution bring a cloud over the Papacy. There were political disturbances in Italy and the Popes were shorn of their temporal power. As a consequence their medical school loses in prestige and finally disappears. The Papal Physicians after this, while distinguished among their fellow members of the Roman medical profession, were no longer the world-known discoverers in medicine that had so often been the case before. So long as the Popes had the power and possessed the means, they used both to encourage medicine in every way, as the list of Papal Physicians shows better than anything else, and a study of this chapter of their history will undo all the false assertions with regard to the supposed opposition between the Church and science.

We have already said, and it seems to deserve repetition here, that during most of these centuries in which the Papal Physicians were among the most distinguished discoverers in medicine, the term medicine included within itself most of what we now know as physical science. Botany was studied as a branch of medicine, and as we have seen, one of the Papal Physicians, Simon Januensis, compiled a dictionary that a modern German Historian of Botany finds excellent. Astrology, under which term astronomy was included, was studied for the sake of the supposed influence of the stars on men’s constitutions.–Chemistry was a branch of medical study. Mineralogy was considered a science allied to medicine, and the use of antimony and other metals in medicine originated with physicians trying to extend the domain of knowledge to minerals. Comparative anatomy was founded by a Papal Physician. These were the principal physical sciences.

To talk of opposition between science and religion, then, with the most distinguished scientists of these centuries in friendly personal and official relations with the Popes, is to indulge in one of those absurdities common enough among those who must find matter for their condemnation of the Popes and the Church, but that every advance in modern history has pushed farther back into the rubbish chamber of outlived traditions.

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