I found this list in the Summer 2010 issue of Company – a jesuit magazine and thought I’d share it with you. [Update: The list comes from James Martin S.J.’s best-selling, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything.]
Ten Things You Didn’t Know (About the Jesuits)
1. They invented the trap door. Without the Jesuits, the Wicked Witch of the West wouldn’t have been able to disappear so suddenly in The Wizard of Oz. With a history in theater and the arts, Jesuits also perfected the “scrim,” the sheer curtain still used in theaters today.
2. They discovered quinine (called “Jesuit bark” in the 16th century) that is used today for anti-malarial drugs and also in tonic water. Without the Jesuits, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy your gin and tonic.
3. Their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1 491—1 556), the Spanish-soldier-turned-mystic may be the only saint with a notarized police record: for nighttime brawling with intent to cause bodily harm (needless to say, this came before his conversion).
4. Their dictionaries and lexicons of the native languages in North America in the 17th century were the first resources Europeans used to understand these ancient tongues, and they still provide modern scholars with the earliest transcriptions of the languages.
5. They located the source of the Blue Nile and charted large stretches of the Amazon and Mississippi Rivers.
6. They educated Descartes, Voltaire, Moliere, James Joyce, Peter Paul Rubens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Fidel Castro, Alfred Hitchcock, and Bill Clinton—not to mention Bing Crosby, Vince Lombardi, Robert Altman, Chris Farley, Salma Hayek, and Denzel Washington.
7. They founded the city of Sao Paolo, Brazil.
8. There are 35 craters on the moon named for Jesuit scientists. And Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century Jesuit scientist, called “master of a hundred arts” and “the last man to know everything”, was a geologist, biologist, linguist, decipherer of hieroglyphics, and inventor of the megaphone.
9. They inspired the film On the Waterfront, based on the groundbreaking labor-relations work of Jesuit John Corridan, who worked in New York City in the 1 940s and 1 950s. His part was played by Karl MaIden, who, last year, died 50 years to the day after Fr.Corridan.
10. They count 40 saints and dozens of blessed among their members, including the globe-trotting missionary St. Francis Xavier. Their famous “former” members include Garry Wills, John McLaughlin, and Jerry Brown.
[Source: James Martin, S.J., The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, Paperback Edition]