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This 2001 article written by Charles Seife for the journal Science discusses the Pontifical Academy of Science, with a side-bar article on the Vatican Observatory. Seife writes:
Since its founding, the Pontifical Academy has numbered among its members such scientific luminaries as Alexander Fleming, Niels Bohr, Chandrasekhara Raman, and Werner Heisenberg (elected in 1955)…. Candidates are nominated and elected by the members, although technically they are appointed by sovereign act of the pontiff—who looks for more than mere scientific eminence. The institution’s charter specifies that members must possess “acknowledged moral personality.”… Once on board, members share a simple set of duties: to meet and talk. Members say they choose their own speakers and topics and debate issues freely. “The Catholic Church is supporting this academy,” says Crodowaldo Pavan, a geneticist at the University of Sao Paulo and a member of the academy. “They pay for this meeting and don’t say what we should say—they give us total freedom.”… The academy’s November session drew an eclectic mix of people: physicists, biologists, philosophers, theologians, and clerics. Dominican robes and Jesuit collars mingled with suits that had seen more than their share of chalk dust.
Click here to access this article via JSTOR (available through many libraries).
Click here to access this article via Science.