The Pope and the Englishwoman: Benedict XIV, Jane Squire, the Bologna Academy, and the Problem of Longitude

  • Article (book chapter)
  • 20 pages
  • Level: university

“The Pope and the Englishwoman: Benedict XIV, Jane Squire, the Bologna Academy, and the Problem of Longitude”, by Paula Findlen of Stanford University, is a chapter in Benedict XIV and the Enlightenment: Art, Science, and Spirituality, a collection of essays concerning the mid-eighteenth-century papacy of Benedict XIV (Prospero Lorenzo Lambertini), published by the University of Toronto Press. Findlen tells the story of Jane Squire, an English Catholic who had worked out a new system of celestial navigation and who was determined that her ideas be heard by the establishment. As she was unable to get a hearing in England, in 1743 Squire wrote to Pope Benedict XIV, who was open to the scientific work of women. From the article:

Squire argued: “my being a Woman, excludes me not from the Blessing of being a Christian; a Character that determines the Business of the reasonable Creature; by a Determination made by its Creator”… Squire characterized herself as someone naturally drawn to mathematical problems as a pleasing pastime: “to study the Law of God Day and Night, is my proper Business; Philosophy, my Amusement; and Mathematicks, my Play-things… I see not therefore, why I should confine myself to Needles, Cards, and Dice.”

Benedict took notice of Squire’s letter and had her work reviewed by Italian scholars. Unfortunately, Squire died shortly after sending her letter, and her system of navigation was not practical.

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