Friday, May 21, 2010

Pandorina morum

Were we not talking about microorganisms? I ran across this this morning and had to put it up, if only to accompany the painting in the last post. This is a microorganism, not abstract art, as drawn by Sister Catherine Francis Regli in her master's thesis from 1941. Drawn right into her typed thesis, in pen and ink. No place for timidity or sweaty palms. And there are 53 such illustrations, drawn with the same delicacy and precision.

Makes me think of illuminated manuscripts. Makes me think of...a lot of things. I was talking to a biology professor recently and he stated how incredibly hard it is to get students today to look into a microscope and draw--even crudely--what they are seeing. Aside from lacking all patience to do such a thing, they just don't "see," he said.

I was rather a science geek in school. Catholic kids back then saw science as a grand adventure, a peek into the mind of God. I think science requires an inherent belief in reason, order, benevolence, and a Creator. A background, if you will, for seeing. "Let there be light."

Some years ago, when I was drifting away from the Buddhist fold, after years of seeing everything as appearance, as untrustworthy, where one idea is as bootless as the next-- I took a course in Aquinas. The professor tossed out one day, almost offhandedly, "Oh, yes, the principle of identity: a thing is what it is." I felt like I had been plunged into a refreshing bath of cold water. A thing is what it is! Of course! If, that is, you believe in things, and your ability to comprehend them. If you believe the world is reasonable. If you believe...

Sister Catherine Francis, if she got her master's in 1941, was probably teaching when I was attending school. Men and women like her led me to the same fountains of faith from which she had imbibed.


T Jones said...

I happened upon your site while I was googling Catherine Regli. I knew her as Sister M. Catherine Francis. She was my science teacher (physics)at West Catholic Girls High School in Philadelphia, PA. I graduated in 1972 and when she died on Jan 28, 1976 my mother cut her obituary out of the local paper and mailed it to me.
Not only was Sister Catherine Francis a genius, she was the best teacher I ever had--in high school, college or otherwise. She had such energy and enthusiasm for science and so inspired my interests in physics and astronomy--especially when she spoke about her projects at Palomar.

roc scssrs said...

Thanks for your comment! I'm happy to learn Sister Catherine Francis was an inspiring teacher, and so fondly remembered. Her master's thesis is being cataloged for placement in the Neumann University Library collection. It is a detailed study of microbes taken from the campus pond, which makes me think she had a great sense of humor, too.

T Jones said...

I found the obituary clipping while cleaning through old papers. That prompted me to google for more information about her. Over the years, I have thought about writing an article about her. However, I have not found much. Probably has something to do with the fact that she was a nun and, although a remarkable woman, expected to be anonymous to a certain extent.
I'm glad to read that her thesis is being catalogued. I hope that also means that it may be read via the internet?
Sister Catherine Francis had a way to get our attention-and respect-on the very first day of class. She would go to the rear of the classroom, turn her back, and would say for someone to go up to the chalkboard and write columns of numbers (at least 9 across and 9 down). Then she would turn around and quickly walk to the board and write another row at the bottom from left to right--it was the sum of the columns! No calculation, no hesitation. The whole class would just sit there with our mouths hanging open.
...and the sad thing is that it would have been nice for us to have been able to converse with her "adult to adult", after having a few more years of education and maturity.

roc scssrs said...
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