Brilliant! 25 Catholic Scientists, Mathmeticians and Supersmart People

Author: David Michael Warren

Illustrator: Jaclyn Warren

Published: Pauline Books and Word on Fire Institute

Age Range: 7-11

It’s always such a pleasure to hold a beautifully produced hardcover book in your hands. Brilliant! Is an important book that I wholeheartedly recommend that you buy for your students, children or grandchildren.  Dispelling myths that Catholicism is inherently anti-science, this book briefly describes how 25 Catholic men and women throughout history have contributed to our scientific understanding of the world and universe.

Among the 25 people chosen you will find Botanists, Geologists, Chemists, Physicists, Geneticists, medical doctors and more.  These men and women have all made outstanding and significant contributions to science.  AND they are all Catholic in their beliefs. Among the ranks of the “Supersmart” there are nuns and priests, lay men and women, and Catholics from all walks of life.

As I read through the stories, I was struck by what a positive and encouraging message the book gives to children and young people. New discoveries and ways of doing things are celebrated, for example Louis Braille developing a better method to help blind people to read and write. Then there’s the selfless and sacrificial love of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, a medical doctor who devoted her life to helping sick children. There is nothing more uplifting than reading the stories of how individuals have made such positive and lasting impact.

A common theme throughout the book is how these very clever people had a desire to use their knowledge to more fully understand God’s creation.  Using the scientific method, more is learnt about how awesome God’s creation is.  Many of these scientists and technicians worked long and hard to achieve what they have – and most were humble about their achievements.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Jaclyn Warren, wife of author Michael Warren.  The black and white drawings playfully intertwine with the text.  Children will enjoy reading the different quotes and messages in different fonts that complement the story being read. Most chapters are approximately 650 – 700 words in length so they will be easily read by this age group. Each chapter begins with a little of the person’s history and then highlights their achievements and good works.  The chapters end with how and when that person died and the legacy of their work that endures.

One of my favourite chapters was about Pope Francis and his declaration that the Big Bang theory and evolution theory were compatible with Catholic teaching.  The Holy Father also stated that taking care of God’s creation is a new Catholic work of Mercy.  I was also impressed by Laura Bassi, the first female professor of Physics. This book presents so many possibilities for teaching and learning – an absolute must for teachers and homeshoolers!

Hear Bishop Robert Barron talking about the book:

You can buy the book from Amazon HERE

Pauline Books HERE:

Homeschool and Teacher Ideas:

Firstly some visual literacy that kids will enjoy: look at the playful fonts used in each chapter.  Why not ask children to identify how the font matches the story.  Here’s some examples:

  • Father Michael Mendel on page 55 – the foliage spells out the word “Growth”.
  • Why has the illustrator used the plants to spell out this word?
  • How does the word “growth” relate to the story?
  • Jerome Lejeune on pages 86-87 – the letters of the words appear to look like chromosomes.
  • Why has the illustrator used chromosomes to spell out the words?
  • How do chromosomes relate to the story?
  • Father Angelo Secchi on page 42 – the letters are written like constellations of stars.
  • Why has the illustrator used the stars to spell out these words?
  • How do the constellations of starts relate to this story?

Some children might like to imaginatively illustrate quotes from Saints or famous people – use something related to that person’s story to write the quote. (For example Saint Luke may have used a quill for writing.  Imagine using feather quills to write out the words.  Saint Joseph and carpenter tools.  Fiery flames for St Joan of Arc.)

  • Research some more about the topics for each person. For example, the history of computers for Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, or the ancient carvings and art that Father Henri Breuil studied.

More capable students might write out answers to these questions:

  • Why should Catholics study science?
  • Why would some people say that Catholics should not study science?
  • What is the theory of evolution? How is the theory of evolution compatible with Catholic belief? (page 92-93).

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