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Missionary Scientists

Jesuit Science in Spanish South America, 1570-1810

Andrés I. Prieto

Publication Year: 2011

Missionary Scientists explores the scientific activities of Jesuit missionaries in colonial Spanish America, revealing a little-known aspect of religion's role in the scholarship of the early Spanish Empire. Grounded in an examination of the writings and individuals authors who were active in South American naturalist studies, this study outlines new paths of research often neglected by current scholarship. What becomes clear throughout Missionary Scientists is that early missionaries were adept in adapting to local practices, in order to both understand the scientific foundations of these techniques and ingratiate themselves to the native communities. Spanning the disciplines of history, religion, and Latin American studies, Missionary Scientists reshapes our understanding of the importance of the Jesuit missions in establishing early scientific traditions in the New World.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

As with most projects, I would have never been able to carry this book to completion without the help, support, and encouragement of friends, colleagues, and institutions. This book has its origins in the Modern and Classical Languages Department at the University of Connecticut. Osvaldo F. Pardo patiently taught me how to read colonial Latin American texts and how...

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Introduction: Science and the Jesuit Ways of Proceeding

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pp. 1-10

In 1663, the Genoese physician Sebastianus Badus set out to defend the curative properties of a Peruvian tree bark from the attacks of other European physicians skeptical of this new medicine. In the resulting treatise, Anastasis corticis Peruviae, sive Chinae Chinae defensio, Badus told the story of how in the city of Lima the Countess of Chinch

Part I: Missionary Ethos

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p. 11

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Chapter 1. Jesuit Struggles in Peru

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pp. 13-35

On March 1, 1572, Francisco de Toledo sat down to write a long letter to King Philip II, reporting on the state of affairs in the Viceroyalty of Peru. Front and center in Toledo’s report were his concerns about the spiritual situation in the realm, in particular the conversion of the Andean natives. After describing the overall ecclesiastical situation and his own efforts toward the evangelization...

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Chapter 2. Confessing the Power to Heal

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pp. 36-61

On April 11, 1593, the city of Santiago was preparing to celebrate the imminent arrival of the first Jesuits in Chile. The occasion was a joyous one. The settlers, impoverished after decades of warfare against the Mapuche people, and separated from the cultural and administrative centers in Peru by the inhospitable Atacama Desert, were eager to welcome the Jesuits...

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Chapter 3. Christianizing Demonic Knowledge

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pp. 62-87

Despite all the efforts displayed by the Jesuit missionaries, the machis remained a powerful influence among both amigo and enemigo communities. The difficulties found by colonial and religious officials in their attempts to reduce the Mapuche into Spanish-style towns weakened the effectiveness of the missionaries’ attempts to control indigenous magical and religious...

Part II : A Collaborative Enterprise

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p. 89

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Chapter 4. Science and Expansion

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pp. 91-115

The conflict between the first Jesuits who arrived in Peru at the end of the 1560s and Viceroy Francisco de Toledo over the proper way in which the Society of Jesus should fulfill its mandate in South America brought on a change in the priorities of the order. If originally the Jesuits were to tend primarily to the Christian population living in the main urban centers of the viceroyalty...

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Chapter 5. Astronomy between Chiloe, Lima, and Rome

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pp. 116-140

The expansion of the Jesuit system of colleges, residences, and missions throughout South America offered the members of the order unique opportunities for the study of the history and nature of the continent. As Bernabé Cobo’s career shows, the Jesuit network could be used to foster one’s access to archives, natural specimens, and informants, thus putting a wealth of information...

Part III : Natura ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

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p. 141

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Chapter 6. The Two Faces of Acosta’s Historia natural y moral de las Indias

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pp. 143-168

On February 24, 1554, Ignatius Loyola wrote to Gaspar Barceo, Vice Provincial of India, suggesting that he moderate his apostolic zeal for the sake of his own health. Along with this expression of concern for the missionary’s well-being (a belated concern, for Barceo had died almost six months before), Loyola sent him very precise guidelines regarding his communication with...

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Chapter 7. The Irreducible Difference of America

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pp. 169-194

The influence of Acosta’s Historia natural y moral de las Indias was felt on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, Acosta’s book was quickly translated into all the major languages and became one of the most authoritative studies on the nature and cultures of the New World. During the eighteenth century, when other early colonial texts were being strongly criticized for...

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Chapter 8. Local Nature, Local Histories

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pp. 195-220

In his 1643 update of Pedro Ribadeneyra’s catalog of Jesuit writers, Philippe de Alegambe announced that Cobo had put together a history of the Indies that would be published before long.1 A year earlier, Cobo had returned to Peru after spending a decade in Mexico; despite Alegambe’s announcement, it took him ten more years to finish his Historia del Nuevo Mundo. Cobo died four...

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Epilogue: The Jesuit and the Armchair Philosopher

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pp. 221-228

In 1767, King Charles III, following the precedent set by the Crown of Portugal and by France, signed a royal edict banishing the Jesuits from his dominions. Almost overnight, Jesuit priests and lay brothers were forced to abandon their residences, leaving behind the majority of their possessions, except for their most indispensable personal belongings. All the lands and buildings...


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pp. 229-257


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pp. 259-274


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pp. 275-287

E-ISBN-13: 9780826517463
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826517449
Print-ISBN-10: 0826517447

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 719388627
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Missionary Scientists

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Subject Headings

  • Jesuits -- South America -- History.
  • Jesuits -- Missions -- South America -- History.
  • Jesuits -- South America -- Intellectual life -- History.
  • Natural history -- South America -- History.
  • Religion and science -- South America -- History.
  • Peru (Viceroyalty) -- History.
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