The astronomer and scientist Galileo Galilei was famously convicted of heresy by the Roman Catholic Church for supporting the theory that the planets revolved around the sun. In private letters, he confirmed that his beliefs hadn’t changed.
Known as the founder of the scientific method, Sir Francis Bacon believed that gathering and analyzing data in an organized way was essential to scientific progress. An Anglican, Bacon believed in the existence of God.
Charles Darwin is best known for his theory of evolution. On the question of God, Darwin admitted in letters to friends that his feelings often fluctuated. He had a hard time believing that an omnipotent God would have created a world filled with so much suffering. But at the same time, he wasn’t content to conclude that this “wonderful universe” was the result of “brute force.”
Maria Mitchell was America’s first female astronomer and the first woman to be named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She was born into a Quaker family, but began to question her denomination’s teachings in her twenties. She was eventually disowned from membership and for the rest of her life, didn’t put much importance on church doctrines or attendance. Instead she said she was a seeker,
Marie Curie, a physicist, was brought up in the Catholic faith, but reportedly became agnostic in her teens. She went on to become the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. Both Marie and her husband Pierre Curie did not follow any specific religion.
Albert Einstein, one of the most well-known physicists of the 20th century, was born into a secular Jewish family. As an adult, he tried to avoid religious labels, rejecting the idea of a “personal God,” but at the same time, separating himself from “fanatical atheists” whom he believed were unable to hear “the music of the spheres.”
Astronomer Carl Sagan is best known for hosting the TV series “Cosmos.” He rejected the label of “atheist” because he was open to the possibility that science would perhaps one day find compelling evidence to prove God.
Francis Collins is the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In a 2007 book about the intersection between science and faith, Collins described how he converted from atheism to Christianity and attempts to argue that the idea of a Christian God is compatible with Darwin’s theory of evolution.