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Joseph Bayma

Jesuit mathematician and scientist (1816-1892)

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Bayma, JOSEPH, a Jesuit mathematician and scientist, b. in Piedmont, Italy, November 9, 1816; d. at Santa Clara, California, U.S.A., February 7, 1892. He entered the Society of Jesus, February 5, 1832, and distinguished himself in literature, mathematics, and physics. He was in charge of the episcopal seminary of Bertinoro when the troubles of 1860 forced him and many of his brethren to seek shelter in England. Hitherto he had given no special attention to philosophy, but at Stonyhurst he took it up and taught it for some seven years. His powerful and original mind soon produced three volumes of "Realis Philosophia", which were printed for private circulation. No sooner were they out than he introduced numerous corrections; thus the printed volumes cannot be relied upon as evidence of his mature opinions. In 1868 Father Bayma left for California, where he was Rector of Saint Ignatius' College, San Francisco, for three years, but afterwards resided at Santa Clara, teaching elementary mathematics there till his death. At his death he left behind, in manuscript, an elaborate new edition of the "Realis Philosophia" which never saw the light. His published works are "Molecular Mechanics" (Cambridge, 1866); "The Love of Religious Perfection", originally written in Italian, in the style of "The Imitation of Christ" (published in English, Dublin, 1863); articles in "The Catholic World", XVII-XXI (1873-75), the best printed account of his philosophy; two articles in the "Am. Cath. Q. Rev.", II (1877); and "A Discussion with an Infidel", being a review of Buchner's "Force and Matter" (New York, London, and Leamington, 1901). His elementary works on mathematics, all published at San Francisco, are: "Algebra" (1890), "Geometry" (1895), "Analytical Geometry" (1887), "Plane and Spherical Trigonometry" (1886), "Infinitesimal Calculus" (1889).

Father Bayma took the Venerable Bede for his model, and loved to refer to the old Breviary Lesson, which used to be read in England on St. Bede's day. It ran: "Bede [and Bayma too] was handsome of stature, grave of gait, rich and sonorous of voice, eloquent of speech, noble of countenance, a blend of affability with severity. He was affable to the good and devout, formidable to the proud and negligent. He was always reading, always writing, always teaching, always praying." Only the young men who sat under him could know his fascination as a teacher. To posterity he must be known by his "Molecular Mechanics", a metaphysical and mathematical work treating of the constitution of matter. With Roger Boscovich, Bayma reduces all matter to unextended points, centers of force acting in the inverse square of the distance. Thus acting upon one another, but of course not touching, for Bayma abhorred continuous matter and upheld actio in distans, these points were bound up into molecules, and molecules into bodies. Boscovich made his points, or elements, attractive at molar distances, repulsive at molecular. Bayma divides elements into attractive and repulsive, the former always attracting, the latter always repelling; the attractive elements preponderating in the nucleus of the molecule, the repulsive in the envelope. The work drew attention at Cambridge, and at Trinity College, Dublin. The author was advised to test his theories by ten years of experiments in chemistry and electricity. Unhappily, this was never done. One of his proofs certainly lies open to grave objection, but Bayma's main theory does not stand or fall with that proposition. The gravest objection against the theory is its alleged failure to account for inertia. Father Bayma ever professed the utmost reverence for St. Thomas. His saying was: "the metaphysics of St. Thomas, with modern physics".

JOSEPH RICKABY


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