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Bio Faculty Research - Edward Davis

Ted Davis' Research

Distinguished Professor of the History of Science

Unlike everyone else in the department, I’m not a biologist; I’m an historian of science who specializes in the history of Christianity and science. For many years I worked on the English chemist Robert Boyle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Boyle), editing with Michael Hunter (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/about-us/fellows/michael-hunter) The Works of Robert Boyle (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/boyle/researchers/works/boyle_works.html), 14 vols. (Pickering & Chatto, 1999-2000), and a separate edition of Boyle’s treatise on God and nature, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature (http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/philosophy/philosophy-texts/robert-boyle-free-enquiry-vulgarly-received-notion-nature?format=PB) (Cambridge University Press, 1996). My current project, supported by the National Science Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation, examines the religious activities and beliefs of prominent American scientists from the period between the two world wars. An article about this was published in American Scientist, while several separate studies of five individual scientists, including Nobel laureates Robert Millikan and Arthur Holly Compton, have appeared in various venues. All together I’ve published dozens of articles about Christianity and science in the Scientific Revolution and modern America, including a study of modern Jonah stories that was featured on two BBC radio programs.

Students from Biological Sciences and other departments have been involved with most of these projects. The skills they acquired as my research assistants helped prepare them for graduate work at top universities, including Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Maryland.

In addition to traditional scholarship, I write biweekly columns about science and religion for the BioLogos Foundation (https://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature) and direct The Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science (http://www.messiah.edu/godandscience). I’m also a former president of the American Scientific Affiliation (www.asa3.org), the oldest American organization for Christians in the sciences.

I am best known as editor (with Michael Hunter) of the 14-volume set, The Works of Robert Boyle, (Pickering & Chatto, 1999-2000), and a separate edition of Boyle’s treatise on God and nature, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature (Cambridge University Press, 1996). I also collaborated with Professor Hunter to identify and describe thousands of unpublished manuscripts in the Boyle Papers at The Royal Society in London. That major project resulted in several other by-products, including an article about Boyle’s religious life and beliefs.

My current project, supported by the National Science Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation, examines the religious activities and beliefs of prominent American scientists from the period between the two world wars. An article about this in American Scientist was ranked as one of the ten most read articles on their web site in 2017. I also published separate studies of five individual scientists, including Nobel laureates Robert Millikan and Arthur Holly Compton. An edition of ten pamphlets on “Science and Religion” (the series title) written by Millikan, Compton, and other leading scientists from the 1920s, is in the process of publication.

Since coming to Messiah in 1985, I’ve published dozens of articles about historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science, including a study of modern Jonah stories that was featured on two BBC radio programs nearly twenty years ago.

Students have been involved with most of these projects.

As a former president of the American Scientific Affiliation (the oldest American organization for Christians in the sciences) and a Fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion, I am often involved with scholarly projects directed by others. Presently, I advise the National Museum of American History and the Museum of the Bible, concerning upcoming exhibits about religion and science. I also speak frequently at academic conferences and public events at nearly 100 colleges, universities, and seminaries on five continents.