7 Christian Academics Who Changed History


If you’re thinking of enrolling in a Christian college, you’ve got a lot of decisions to make. Brainiacs of faith can take heart. Many Christian thinkers have changed the course of history, some of whom were devout practitioners and champions of their faith. Sometimes controversial but always thought provoking, consider these seven Christian academics who changed history.

  1. René Descartes

    A Roman Catholic, Descartes is often called the "Father of Modern Philosophy." He changed the course of human thought by proposing the philosophical statement, "Cogito ergo sum." This translates to, "I think, therefore I am." Both rationalism and Cartesan mathematical concepts come from this giant of a thinker, responsible for revolutionizing both mathematics and philosophy in the seventeenth century. Though accused of being an atheist by contemporary philosopher Blaise Pascal and others, Descartes consistently claimed that his Meditations on First Philosophy was intended to defend the Christian faith, and offers ontological proof in the third and fifth meditations of a benevolent higher power.

  2. Gottfriend Leibniz

    It’s almost impossible to overestimate the importance of Leibniz’s thought to the modern world today. Not only did he independently develop infinitesimal calculus, Leibniz also forwarded the binary system on, which our modern computers converse. His philosophic work remained relevant well into the 20th century, when some of his predictions and concerns about analytic and linguistic philosophy beared true.

  3. Søren Kierkegaard

    Often called the first existentialist thinker, the peculiar Dutch philosopher, poet, and critic was preoccupied with the state of nineteenth century Christianity. He used his writings to expose his opinion that the State Church of Denmark was out of line with the teachings of the New Testament, the sacred text by which all Christians purport to live. At the end of his life, he openly regarded clergy members as mere political officials, and called for a return to New Testament principles. His influence on philosophic thought cannot be denied, and his inclusion of irony in his contribution to Western thought is palpable.

  4. Galileo Galilei

    A giant of the Scientific Revolution, this infamous thinker changed the entire course of human scientific thought, but had constant problems with the Roman Inquisition of the early 1600s. Proposing a heliocentic (sun-centered) model of the known universe in support of Copernicanism, Galilei also made major improvements to the telescope, and understood the relationship between modern physics, mathematics, and astronomy. The scientist and mathematician considered the priesthood at an early age, but pursued medicine at the prompting of his father, later changing his studies to mathematics and natural philosophy. Embattling Jesuit mathematicians with his The Assayer manifesto, Galilei spent much of his career in disagreement with the Catholic Church. In 1633, the thinker was sentenced to a life of house arrest, for the crime of heresy. His now classic Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was banned, and Galilei spent the rest of his days in his home, writing reflective pieces on forty years of scientific study.

  5. Georges Lemaître

    Belgian physicist Georges Lemaître was a Catholic priest and scientist, and changed history by being the first to propose the Big Bang Theory. Additionally, the thinker proposed what is now known as Hubble’s Law two years before Edwin Hubble proposed it. He proposed a Universe Expansion theory, and also called the Big Bang Theory as we know it, "the Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of creation." A colleague of Einstein’s, and one responsible for early applications of his theory of relativity, Lemaître’s contribution to science and the progression of human thought is both undeniable and underrated.

  6. Martin Luther

    Not only was he a priest and a monk, but Martin Luther was a college professor. His 95 Theses were posted to the door of Castle Church in 1517, and neither Christianity nor history would ever be the same again. When he was excommunicated from the church in 1521, Martin Luther remained a man of faith and academic thought. He translated the Bible into common German language, wrote hymns for congregations to sing in unison, and became a married Protestant clergyman. Although a brilliant thinker and reformer, Martin Luther was also a notorious anti-Semite.

  7. Enrico Fermi

    Winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity, the Catholic scientist moved to the United States. Taking a job at University of Chicago, Fermi published many pieces of particular importance to the advancement of mid-20th century physics, most notably the observation that when close to time, space behaves in a Euclidean manner. Credited as the first to point out the power of Einstein’s theory of relativity, Fermi aided in the development of the Chicago Pile-1 nuclear reactor. Fermi worked on the development of nuclear weapons until his death at age 53.