Roger Boscovich Bettero: Jesuit Scientist

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Rudjer Boskovic

Rogelio (Roger) Boscovich was born in Ragusa (also known as Dubrovnik), Croatia on May 1711. His father, who was paralyzed, died when Roger was ten years old. His mother, Paola Bettera, came from an Italian merchant family who had originally come from Bergamo, northern Italy. Her family settled in Croatia in the early 17th century . Roger’s mother lived to the age of 103! His mother’s name is often added after his surname of Boscovich. Roger was the second youngest of 8 children; one of his sisters became a nun, one brother entered the Jesuits and one brother became a Dominican.

Education and novitiate

Roger received his education from the Jesuits who were famous for their educational facilities. At that time they had approximately 800 schools and 200,000 students in their care worldwide. The Jesuits, a Roman Catholic Order, had been founded by St. Ignatius in 1540.

At school Boscovich earned a reputation for his good memory and showed great intellectual promise. In 1731, Boscovich entered the novitiate of the Jesuits. In Rome, with the Jesuits, he studied mathematics and physics and showed such brilliance that he was made professor of Mathematics there in 1740. He published dissertations on a variety of scientific subjects.

Scientific contributions

Pope Benedict XIV, in 1742, consulted Boscovich and other scientists on the best way to stabilize the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome in which a crack had been discovered. It was Boscovich’s plan of using five concentric iron bands in the dome that was eventually adopted successfully.

Father Boscovich is known as a physicist, mathematician, architect, diplomat, philosopher and astronomer and made contributions in the advancements of these fields. One of his inventions was the achromatic telescope, in which the lens corrects blurring caused by the different wavelengths of colours. He also discovered the absence of atmosphere on the moon in 1753 and devised a solution of finding the sun’s equator and measuring its rotation by observing the spots on its surface.

Father Roger Boscovich died in Milan on February 13, 1787.

300th Annivsersary

The Croatian parliamen proclaimed 2011, the 300th year of his birth, as “Boscovich Year”. UNESCO has also chosen to mark the anniversary in some way. The Jesuits organized an international conference in November of 2011 to focus on the accomplishments of Boscovich, one of their own. They hope it will also promote vocations in their schools and universities. Jesuits have made many contributions in the sciences, especially astronomy, over the years.

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