Above: William Derham
Image in the Public Domain
WILLIAM DERHAM (NOVEMBER 26, 1657-APRIL 5, 1735)
Anglican Priest and Scientist
Despite the negative opinions of some, whether in the church or outside it, there has long been a good relationship between science and elements of the church. In fact, certain scientists have been clergymen, members of religious orders, or prominent laymen. William Derham was a scientist and an Anglican priest.
Derham, born at Stoulton, Worcestershire, England, on November 26, 1657, became a priest of The Church of England. He studied at Blockley, Gloucestershire, then at Trinity College, Oxford (1675-1679). Out saint, ordained to the priesthood in 1681, became the Vicar of Wargrave, Berskshire, that year. Starting in 1689 Derham served as the Rector of Upminster, Essex. He doubled as Canon of Windsor in 1716-1735.
Derham recognized no conflict between religion and good science. He wrote four books:
- Artificial Clockmaker (1696),
- Physico-Theology (1713),
- Astro-Theology (1714), and
- Christo-Theology (1730).
He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1703, contributed to papers thereof, and edited scientific works by other people. Derham’s scientific interests included zoology and astronomy. He wrote about sunspots, marsupials, Jupiter’s moons, and the aurora borealis, among other topics. In 1709 he published an estimate of the speed of sound.
Oxford granted Derham a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1730.
Derham died at Upminster (near London), England, on April 5, 1735. He was 77 years old.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
MARCH 16, 2017 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, SAINT RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS
THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM KIDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT, AND SAINT MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS
THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CACCIAFRONTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND MARTYR
THE FEAST OF SAINT MEGINGAUD OF WURZGURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ABBOT
God of grace and glory, you create and sustain the universe in majesty and beauty:
We thank you for William Derham and all in whom you have planted the desire
to know your creation and to explore your work and wisdom.
Lead us, like them, to understand better the wonder and mystery of creation;
through Christ your eternal Word, through whom all things were made. Amen.
2 Corinthians 13:1-6
–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 738