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Quakers and science

Are religion and science inherently incompatible? On the contrary, some historians argue that Quaker attitudes toward the natural world as a divine creation has led to a disproportionate number of Quakers in the scientific community. This bibliography includes works about Quakers in science, Quakerism and science, and Quaker scientists.


General works

A lot has been written about science and religion, and about science and Quakerism. Here are some more general and introductory pieces to get started on your research.

Barnes, Kenneth C. From Chaos to Creation: New Thought in Science and Religion : Reason for Hope in a Disordered World. York: William Sessions, 1993.

Cantor, Geoffrey. “Aesthetics in Science, as Practised by Quakers in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.” Quaker Studies 4, no. 1 (1999): 1–20.

Cantor, Geoffrey N. “Friends of Science? The Role of Science in Quaker Periodicals.” In Culture And Science in the Nineteenth-Century Media. Routledge, 2004.

Cantor, Geoffrey N. “How Successful Were Quakers at Science?” Quaker Studies 7, no. 2 (2003): 214–26.

Cantor, G. “Quakers in The Royal Society, 1660–1750.” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 51, no. 2 (1997): 175–93.

Cantor, G. N. Quakers, Jews, and Science: Religious Responses to Modernity and the Sciences in Britain, 1650-1900. Oxford ; Oxford University Press, 2005.

Ellis, George F. R. Faith, Hope & Doubt in Times of Uncertainty: Combining the Realms of Scientific and Spiritual Inquiry. The James Backhouse Lecture 2008. Glen Osmond SA, Australia: The Religious Society of Friends Quakers in Australia, 2008.

Lonsdale, Kathleen. Science and Quakerism. London: Friends Home Service Committee, 1956.

Lonsdale, Kathleen. Science, Religion and the Student. London: Friends Home Service Committee, 1970.

Nichols, Ann. The Golden Age of Quaker Botanists. Kendal, Cumbria [England: Quaker Tapestry at Kendal, 2006.

Pearce, J. M. S. Quakers in Medicine: “Friends of the Truth.” York: WSessions, 2009.

Quaker Sociologists and Anthropologists. “Quaker Sociologists and Anthropologists Records, 1963-1986.,” 1986.

Raistrick, Arthur. Quakers in Science and Industry: Being an Account of the Quaker Contributions to Science and Industry during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Newton Abbot, [Devon, Eng: David & Charles Holdings Ltd, 1968.

Sutton, Richard M. Quaker Scientists. The Ward Lecture, 1962. Guilford College, N.C: Guilford College, 1962.

Torrens, Hugh S. “Dissenting Science: The Quakers among the Founding Fathers.” Geological Society, London, Special Publications 317, no. 1 (January 1, 2009): 129–44. 

Underwood, T. L. Quakers and the Royal Society of London in the Seventeenth CenturyNotes and Records of the Royal Society of London 31, no. 1 (1976): 133–50.


Quaker Theology and Science

For as long as Quakers have been involved in science, they have been writing about it as well. Science and religion are often thought to have a contentious relationship; many Quakers have addressed the conflict in the works listed below. 

Benfey, O. Theodor. Friends and the World of Nature. Pendle Hill Pamphlet 233. Wallingford, Pa: Pendle Hill, 1980.

Binns, Henry. “Our Attitude toward Science.” Friends’ Intelligencer 52, no. 32 (August 1895): 502.

Brain, W. Russell Brain. Man, Society and Religion: An Essay in Bridge-Building. Swarthmore Lecture, 1944. London: Published for the Woodbrooke Extension Committee by George Allen & Unwin, 1944.

Brooke, John Hedley. Reconstructing Nature: The Engagement of Science and Religion. Glasgow Gifford Lectures. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998.

Burnell, Jocelyn Bell. “A Quaker Astronomer Reflects: Can a Scientist Also Be Religious?” James Backhouse Lecture Series presented at the Australia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, University of Canberra, January 2013. 

Cadbury, Henry J. Science and Conscience. Western College Association. Proceedings of Meetings during 1950-1951. Claremont, Cal: Western College Association, 1951.

Cantor, G. N. “Quaker Responses to Darwin.” Osiris (Bruges, Belgium) 16 (2001): 321–42.

Cherim, Stan. Large Circles and Bold Lines: A Quaker Scientist’s Meditation on the Subject of Meaning in His Life. iUniverse, 2011.

Clark, Robert A. The Quaker Heritage in Medicine. Pacific Grove, Calif: The Boxwood Press, 1978.

Eddington, Arthur Stanley. Science & Religion; a Symposium. London: The Friends Home Service Committee, 1931.

Eddington, Arthur Stanley. Science and the Unseen World. Swarthmore Lecture, 1929. New York: Macmillan, 1930.

Ellis, George. “Faith, Hope and Doubt in Times of Uncertainty: Combining the Realms of Scientific and Spiritual Inquiry.” James Backhouse Lecture Series presented at the Australia Yearly Meeting, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, January 7, 2008. 

Ellis, George F. R. Science in Faith and Hope: An Interaction. London: Quaker Books, 2004.

Leach, Camilla. “Religion and Rationality: Quaker Women and Science Education 1790-1850,” 2006.

London Yearly Meeting. The Natural History Journal. York: WSessions, 1877.

Lonsdale, Kathleen. A Scientist Tries to Answer Some of Her Own Questions about Religion. London: Friends Home Service Committee, 1962.

Lonsdale, Kathleen. Science and Quakerism. London: Friends Home Service Committee, 1956.

Lonsdale, Kathleen. Science and the Good Life. Presidential Address 1968. London: British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1968.

Murray-Rust, David M. God in the Universe: A Twentieth-Century Quaker Looks at Science and Theology. Woodbrooke Occasional Papers, 3. London: Published for Woodbrooke College by the Friends Home Service Committee, 1973.

Price, Charles C. Energy and Order: Some Reflections on Evolution. Swarthmore, Pennsylvania: CCPrice, 1983.

Quaker Social Responsibility & Education, and Quaker Home Service. It’s Here to Stay: Some Questions for Friends about New Technology in Our Everyday Lives. London: Published for QSRE by Quaker Home Service, 1988.

Ruse, Michael. “Christianity and Darwinism: The Journey Is More Important Than the Destination.” Religions 12, no. 2 (February 2021): 124. 

Schwabe, Calvin W. Quakerism and Science. Pendle Hill Pamphlet 343. Wallingford, Pa: Pendle Hill Publications, 1999.

Schwabe, Calvin W. Science, Spirit, Wholeness: A Quaker Scientist’s Sense of God. United States? Borders, 2004.

Skidmore, Chris, Amber Carroll, Quaker Ethics and Genetics Network, and Bedfordshire General Meeting. Inventing Heaven? Quakers Confront the Challenges of Genetic Engineering. Reading [England: Sowle Press, 1999.

Southall, J. E. Modern Science and Christianity: Considered from a Quaker Standpoint. Newport, Mon: JESouthall, 1890.

Thompson, Silvanus P. Can a Scientific Man Be a Sincere Friend?: A Paper Written, by Request, for the Conference of the Society of Friends, Held at Manchester, 1895. Manchester: Morris & Yeaman, 1895.

Watson, Elizabeth G. This I Know Experimentally. Philadelphia: Wider Quaker Fellowship, 1979.

Science and Activism

As science and the military developed a closer relationship in the mid-20th century, Quakers - both scientists and non - were among the first to voice concern. → Kelly Moore’s Disrupting Science (ch 3 esp.)


Lonsdale, Kathleen. Three Essays in Social Responsibility. Pamphlet - Society for Social Responsibility in Science ; No. 3. Society for Social Responsibility in Science, 1956.

Moore, Kelly. Disrupting Science Social Movements, American Scientists, and the Politics of the Military, 1945-1975. Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Owen, G. E., and Victor Paschkis. “The Responsibility of Scientists [with Reply].” The Antioch Review 16, no. 2 (1956): 161–76. 

Paschkis, V. “Victor Paschkis Papers, 1946-1976.,” 1976. Archive DG 119. Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Quaker Social Responsibility & Education and Quaker Home Service. It’s Here to Stay: Some Questions for Friends about New Technology in Our Everyday Lives. London: Published for QSRE by Quaker Home Service, 1988.

Society for Social Responsibility in Science. “Society for Social Responsibility in Science Papers, 1948-1976.,” n.d.

Scientists by Discipline

Quakers can be found in all disciplines. Below is a list of Friends and the fields in which they worked.

Medicine and Biology

Allen, William. The Substance of an Address to the Students at Guy’s Hospital,: At the Close of the Lectures on Experimental Philosophy. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green; J. and A. Arch; Harvey and Darton; J. Hatchard; W. Phillips; and E. Cox and Son, 1826.

Blake, John Ballard. Benjamin Waterhouse and the Introduction of Vaccination; a Reappraisal. Yale University Department of the History of Medicine Monograph Series ; University of Pennsylvania Press, 1957.

Brownlee, George G. Fred Sanger, Double Nobel Laureate: A Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Fisher, Richard B. Joseph Lister, 1827-1912. New York: Stein and Day, 1977.

Fothergill, John. Chain of Friendship: Selected Letters of Dr. John Fothergill of London, 1735-1780. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

Harper, Francis. The Distribution of the Limpkin and Its Staple Food, Pomacea. Philadelphia ; Boston, 1936.

Harrison, Richard S. Dr John Rutty (1698-1775) of Dublin: A Quaker Polymath in the Enlightenment. Dublin: Original Writing, 2011.

Illman, John. “Oliver Gillie: Medical Journalist and Vitamin D Campaigner.” BMJ 373 (June 3, 2021): n1375. 

Moore, Kelly. Disrupting Science: Social Movements, American Scientists, and the Politics of the Military, 1945-1975. Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology. Princeton: University Press, 2008.

Pearce, J. M. S. Quakers in Medicine: Friends of the Truth. 1st Edition. York, England: William Sessions Limited, 2009.

Wakefield, Priscilla. Instinct Displayed: In a Collection of Well Authenticated Facts, Exemplifying the Extraordinary Sagacity of Various Species of the Animal Creation. 2nd ed. London: Darton, Harvey, and Darton, 1814.


Benfey, O. Theodor. From Intellectual Scaffolding to the Elixir of Life: Editorials from Chemistry. Guilford, N.C: Guilford, NC, 1978.

Benfey, O. Theodor, and James J. Bohning. A Festschrift in Honor of Otto Theodor Benfey. Bulletin for the History of Chemistry ; No. 13-14, Winter/Spring 1992-93. Cincinnati, OH, USA: Division of the History of Chemistry, in collaboration with the Oespur Collection in the History of Chemistry of the University of Cincinnati, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation, 1992.

Greenaway, Frank. John Dalton and the Atom. London: Heinemann, 1966.

Hodgkin, Dorothy M. Crowfoot. Kathleen Lonsdale: A Biographical Memoir. London: Royal Society, 1976.

Lemberg, R. Encounter with Rudi Lemberg. New South Wales, Australia: Amber Press, 1975.

Millington, John Price. John Dalton. English Men of Science, v. 6. London: JM Dent, 1906.

Patterson, Elizabeth Chambers. John Dalton and the Atomic Theory: The Biography of a Natural Philosopher. Science Study Series. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1970.

Smyth, A. L. John Dalton, 1766-1844: A Bibliography of Works by and about Him, with an Annotated List of His Surviving Apparatus and Personal Effects. Aldershot, Hampshire, Great Britain ; Manchester Literary and Philosophical Publications in association with Ashgate, 1998.

Thackray, Arnold. John Dalton; Critical Assessments of His Life and Science. Harvard Monographs in the History of Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972.

Vail, Ruth M. Russell. James Garrett Vail, 1886-1951. n.p: np, n.d.

Wilson, Jennifer M. “Dame Kathleen Lonsdale FRS (1903-1971): Her Contribution to Crystallography.” Chemtexts 7, no. 4 (August 5, 2021): 23. 

Engineering and Mathematics

Ashford, Oliver M. Prophet--or Professor?: The Life and Work of Lewis Fry Richardson. Bristol ; Adam Hilger, 1985.

Hill, Geoffrey. Worsdell’s Quaker Engineering Dynasty. Glossop: Senior Publications, 1990.

Kavanagh, Donncha, and Martin Brigham. “The Quakers: Forgotten Pioneers.” In Origins of Organizing. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018.

Unger, Stephen H. “Responsibility in Engineering: Victor Paschkis vs. Wernher von Braun.” IT Professional 12, no. 3 (2010): 6–7.

Astronomy and Physics

Booker, Margaret Moore. Among the Stars: The Life of Maria Mitchell : Astronomer, Educator, Women’s Rights Activist. 1st ed. Nantucket, Mass: Mill Hill Press, 2007.

Burnell, S. Jocelyn. A Quaker Astronomer Reflects: Can a Scientist Also Be Religious? The James Backhouse Lecture 2013. Australia: Religious Society of Friends, 2013.

Chandrasekhar, S. Eddington, the Most Distinguished Astrophysicist of His Time. Cambridge ; Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Dingle, Herbert. The Sources of Eddington’s Philosophy. Arthur Stanley Eddington Memorial Lecture, 8. Cambridge, [Eng: University Press, 1954.

Eddington, Arthur Stanley. “A.S. Eddington to Charles R. Murphy, April 14, 1929 | Archives & Manuscripts,” April 14, 1929.

Evans, David S. The Eddington Enigma: A Personal Memoir. S.l: DS Evans, 1998.

Franklin, Ursula M. Ursula Franklin Speaks: Thoughts and Afterthoughts, 1986-2012. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014.

Fuson, Nelson. “Nelson Fuson Family Papers, 1909-1996.,” 1996.

Gooday, Graeme. “‘A Many-Sided Crystal’: Understanding the Manifold Legacy of Silvanus Phillips Thompson (1851-1916).” Centaurus 63, no. 3 (August 2021): 459–74. 

Gooday, Graeme. “Silvanus Phillips Thompson (1851–1916): An Introduction to the Spotlight Section.” Centaurus 63, no. 3 (2021): 453–58. 

Greig, James. Silvanus P. Thompson: Teacher. A Science Museum Booklet. London: HM Stationery Office, 1979.

Gummere, John. An Elementary Treatise on Astronomy: In Two Parts : The First Containing, a Clear and Compendious View of the Theory : The Second, a Number of Practical Problems : To Which Are Added, Solar, Lunar, and Other Astronomical Tables. 3rd ed. improved. Philadelphia: EC & J. Biddle, 1846.

Heine, Volker, Martin J. Rees, Arthur Stanley Eddington, E. T. Whittaker, Herbert Dingle, Richard B. Braithwaite, John C. Eccles, Kathleen Lonsdale, and Mary Warnock. A.S. Eddington and the Unity of Knowledge: Scientist, Quaker & Philosopher: A Selection of the Eddington Memorial Lectures. Swarthmore Lecture 1929. Cambridge ; Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Howard, Luke. Luke Howard (1772-1864): His Correspondence with Goethe and His Continental Journey of 1816. York: William Sessions Limited, 1976.

Jacks, L. P. Sir Arthur Eddington, Man of Science and Mystic. The Second Arthur Stanley Eddington Memorial Lecture, 2 Nov. 1948. Cambridge, [Eng: University Press, 1949.

Mathieson, Genevieve. “Thomas Young, Quaker Scientist.” Thesis MA--Case Western Reserve University, 2008.

Mitchell, Maria. Maria Mitchell: Life, Letters, and Journals. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1896.

Morton, William J. Andrew Ellicott: The Stargazer Who Defined America. Atlanta, Georgia: Georgia History Press, 2015.

Reynolds, Jonathan Owen. “Popular Theology from Popular Scientists: Assessing the Legacy of Eddington and Jeans as Apologists.” Thesis PhD--Durham University, 2017.

Ritchie, Arthur David. Reflections on the Philosophy of Sir Arthur Eddington. Arthur Stanley Eddington Memorial Lecture, 1. Cambridge [Eng: University Press, 1948.

Shapley, Harlow. He Expanded the Universe. Cambridge, Mass: Sky PubCorp, 1945.

Stanley, Matthew. Einstein’s War: How Relativity Triumphed amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I. New York, New York: Dutton, 2019.

Stanley, Matthew. “‘An Expedition to Heal the Wounds of War’: The 1919 Eclipse and Eddington as Quaker Adventurer.” Isis. 94, no. 1 (2003): 57–89.

Stanley, Matthew. Practical Mystic: Religion, Science, and A.S. Eddington. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Thompson, Jane Smeal Henderson. Silvanus Phillips Thompson, D.SC., LL.D., F.R.S.: His Life and Letters. London: TF Unwin, ltd, 1920.

Naturalists, Botanists, and Geologists

Bartram, John. The Correspondence of John Bartram, 1734-1777. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1992.

Bartram, William. The Flower Hunter and the People: William Bartram’s Writings on the Native American Southeast. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2014.

Berkeley, Edmund. The Life and Travels of John Bartram: From Lake Ontario to the River St. John. Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1982.

Bradley, Clint, Walter Kahoe, Mildred Kahoe, and Haverford College) James Frorer Collection (Quaker & Special Collections. Two Quaker Botanists: The Story of John and William Bartram. Moylan, Pa: Rose Valley Press, 1969.

Burek, C. V. “Margaret Chorley Crosfield, FGS: The Very First Female Fellow of the Geological Society.” Geological Society, London, Special Publications 506, no. 1 (January 1, 2021): 33–53.

Collinson, Peter. “Forget Not Mee & My Garden--”: Selected Letters, 1725-1768, of Peter Collinson, F.R.S. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge, Vol. 241. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2002.

Darlington, William. American Weeds and Useful Plants: Being a Second and Illustrated Edition of Agricultural Botany: An Enumeration and Description of Useful Plants and Weeds, Which Merit the Notice, or Require the Attention of American Agriculturists. New York: CMSaxton, Barker & Coetc, 1860.

Deming, David. “Walter Curran Mendenhall: Quaker Scientist.” Ground Water 42, no. 3 (2004): 465–71.

Frazer, Persifor. The Life and Letters of Edward Drinker Cope. The American Geologist, v. 3, No. 2. Minneapolis, Minn, 1900.

Gribbin, Mary, and John Gribbin. James Lovelock: In Search of Gaia. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021. 

Hallock, Thomas, Nancy E. Hoffmann, and Joel T. Fry. William Bartram, the Search for Nature’s Design: Selected Art, Letters, & Unpublished Writings. A Wormsloe Foundation Nature Book. Athens, Ga: University of Georgia Press, 2010.

Hong, Jiang. “Religion, Gender and Science: Quaker Writer Priscilla Wakefield and Her Botany.” Studies in the History of Natural Sciences 38, no. 1 (September 28, 2022): 105–15.

Jaffe, Mark. The Gilded Dinosaur: The Fossil War between E.D. Cope and O.C. Marsh and the Rise of American Science. 1st ed. New York: Crown, 2000.

Logan, James. The Scientific Papers of James Logan. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Ser., v. 62, Pt. 6. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1972.

MacMillan, Catharine. “Sir Edward Fry: Law, Science and Religion.” The Journal of Legal History 41, no. 2 (May 3, 2020): 122–42. 

Mays, Robert. Henry Doubleday: The Epping Naturalist. Marlow, Eng: Precision Press, 1978.

Meyers, Amy R. W., and Lisa L. Ford. Knowing Nature: Art and Science in Philadelphia, 1740-1840. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

Nichols, Ann. The Golden Age of Quaker Botanists. Kendal, Cumbria: Quaker Tapestry at Kendal, 2006.

O’Neill, Jean. Peter Collinson and the Eighteenth-Century Natural History Exchange. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge, v. 264. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2008.

Orr, Oliver H. Saving American Birds: T. Gilbert Pearson and the Founding of the Audubon Movement. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1992.

Pennell, Francis W. “Quaker Botanists.” Bulletin of Friends’ Historical Association 37, no. 1 (1948): 3–13.

Pringle, Cyrus G. Life and Work of Cyrus Guernsey Pringle. Burlington, Vt: Free Press Printing Co, 1936.

Sox, David. Quaker Plant Hunters: From North America’s Early Frontier to the South Pacific : John & William Bartram of Philadelphia Then Sydney Parkinson on Captain Cook’s Endeavour Voyage. York, England: Sessions Book Trust, 2004.

Stork, William. An Account of East-Florida: With A Journal Kept by John Bartram of Philadelphia, Botanist to His Majesty for the Floridas; upon a Journal from St. John’s. London: Sold by W Nicoll and G Woodfall, 1766.

Strunz, George M. Paths of Faith in the Landscape of Science: Three Quakers Check Their Compass. Woodstock, New Brunswick: Chapel Street Editions, 2014.

Warner, Deborah Jean. Graceanna Lewis, Scientist and Humanitarian. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979.

Weiss, Harry B. Thomas Say, Early American Naturalist. Springfield, Ill. ; CC Thomas, 1931.

Whittaker, E. Jean. Thomas Lawson, 1630-1691: North Country Botanist, Quaker and Schoolmaster. York, England: Sessions, 1986.

Wilson, David Scofield. In the Presence of Nature. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1978.

Wood, Howard Page. The Dendrobiums. Ruggell, Liechtenstein: ARG Gantner Verlag, 2006.

Wood, J. Duncan. Horace Alexander, 1889 to 1989: Birds and Binoculars. York: William Sessions, 2003.

Wulf, Andrea. The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession. London: William Heinemann, 2008.


If you find articles and books that would contribute to this list, please contact us.

Bibliography originally created by Gwendolyn Rak (2019). Updated in 2022.