1, 1881 - April 10, 1955) was a Jesuit paleontologist and philosopher
involved in popularising the concept of the noosphere, and present at
the discovery of Peking Man.
Teilhard de Chardin was born in Orcines, close to Clermont-Ferrand,
in France. He was the fourth child of a large family. His father, an
amateur naturalist, collected stones, insects and plants, and promoted
the observation of nature in the household. Teilhard's spirituality
was awakened by his mother. When he was 11, he went to the Jesuit college
of Mongré, in Villefranche-sur-Saone, until completing baccalaureates
of philosophy and mathematics. Then, in 1899, he entered the Jesuit
novitiate at Aix en Provence beginning a philosophical, theological
and spiritual career.
As of the summer 1901, the Waldeck-Rousseau laws, which submitted congregational
associations' properties to state control, forced the Jesuits into exile.
Then, they opened their houses in the United Kingdom. The young Jesuit
students had to continue their studies in Jersey. In the meantime, Teilhard
gained in 1902 a licentiate of literature in Caen.
From 1905 to 1908, he taught physics and chemistry in Cairo, Egypt,
at the Jesuit college of the Holy Family. He wrote "... it is the
dazzling of the East foreseen and drunk greedily... in its lights, its
vegetation, its fauna and its deserts." (Letters from Egypt (1905-1908)
- Editions Aubier)
Teilhard studied theology in Hastings, in Sussex (United Kingdom), from
1908 to 1912. There, he made the synthesis of his scientific, philosophical
and theological knowledge in the light of Evolution. The reading of
l'Evolution Créatrice (the creative Evolution) of Henri Bergson
was, he said, the "... catalyst of a fire which devoured already
its heart and its spirit." He was ordained a priest on August 24,
1911, aged 30.
From 1912 to 1914, Teilhard worked at the laboratory of paleontology
of the National Musée d'Histoire Naturelle, in Paris, on the
mammals of the middle Tertiary sector and thereafter in Europe. Professor
Marcellin Boulle, specialist in Neanderthal studies, gradually directed
him in the direction of human paleontology. At the Institute of human
paleontology, he became a friend of Henri Breuil and took part with
him, in 1913, in excavations in the prehistoric painted caves of the
northwest of Spain, at the Cave of Castillo.
Mobilised in December 1914, Teilhard served in World War I as a stretcher-bearer
in the 8th regiment of Moroccan riflemen. For his valour, he received
several citations including the Médaille Militaire and the Legion
Throughout these years of war he developed his reflections in his diaries
and in letters to his cousin, Marguerite Teillard-Chambon, who later
edited them into a book: Genèse d'une pensée (Genesis
of a thought). He confessed later: "... the war was a meeting ...
with the Absolute." In 1916, he wrote his first essay: La Vie Cosmique
(Cosmic life), where his scientific and philosophical thought was revealed
just as his mystical life. He pronounced his solemn wish to become a
Jesuit in Sainte Foy-the-Lyon, on May 26, 1918, during a leave. In August
1919, in Jersey, he would write Puissance spirituelle de la Matière
(the spiritual Power of Matter).
followed at the Sorbonne three unit degrees of natural science: geology,
botany and zoology. His thesis treated of the mammals of the French
lower Eocene and their stratigraphy. After 1920, he lectured in geology
at the Catholic Institute of Paris, then became an assistant professor
after being granted a science Doctorate in 1922.
In 1923 he traveled to China with Father Emile Licent, who was in charge
in Tien Tsin for a significant laboratory collaborating with the Natural
history museum in Paris and the Marcellin Boule laboratory. Licent carried
out considerable basic work in connection with missionaries who accumulated
observations of a scientific nature in their spare time. He was known
as ??? in China.
Teilhard wrote several essays, including La Messe sur le Monde (the
Mass on the World), in the desert of Ordos. In the following year he
continued lecturing at the Catholic Institute and participated in a
cycle of conferences for the students of the Engineers' Schools. Two
theological essays on "original sin" sent to a theologian,
on his request, on a purely personal basis, were wrongly understood.
July 1920: Chute, Rédemption et Géocentrie (Fall, Redemption
Spring 1922: Notes sur quelques représentations historiques possibles
du Péché originel (Notes on few possible historical representations
of original sin) (Works, Tome X)
The Church hierarchy required him to give up his lecturing at the Catholic
Institute and to continue his geological research in China.
Teilhard travelled again to China in April 1926. He would remain there
more or less twenty years, with many voyages throughout the world. He
settled until 1932 in Tientsin with Emile Licent then in Beijing. From
1926 to 1935, Teilhard made five geological research expeditions in
China. They enabled him to establish a first general geological map
In 1926-1927 after a missed campaign in Gansu he travelled in the Sang-Kan-Ho
valley near Kalgan (Zhangjiakou) and made a tour in Eastern Mongolia.
He wrote Le Milieu Divin (the divine Medium. Teilhard prepared the first
pages of his main work Le Phénomène humain (The human
As an Advisor to the Chinese national geological service, he supervised
the geology and the paleontology of the excavations of Choukoutien (Zhoukoudian)
near Beijing. In December 1929 he took part in the discovery of Sinanthropus
pekinensis, or Peking Man. He resided in Manchuria with Emile Licent,
then stayed in Western Shansi (Shanxi) and northern Shensi (Shaanxi)
with the Chinese paleontologist C. C. Young and with Davidson Black,
Chairman of the Geological Survey of China.
After a tour in Manchuria in the area of Great Khingan with Chinese
geologists, Teilhard joined the team of American Expedition Center-Asia
in the Gobi organised in June and July, by the American Museum of Natural
History with Roy Chapman Andrews.
Henri Breuil and Teilhard discovered that the Peking Man, the nearest
relative of Pithecanthropus from Java, was a "faber" (worker
of stones and controller of fire). He wrote L'Esprit de la Terre (the
Spirit of the Earth).
Teilhard took part as a scientist in the famous "Yellow Cruise"
in Central Asia. He joined in the northwest of Beijing in Kalgan the
China group who joined the second part of the team, the Pamir group,
in Aksu. He reamined with his colleagues for several months in Urumqi,
capital of Sinkiang. The following year the Teilhard undertook several
explorations in the south of China. He traveled in the valleys of Yangtze
and Szechuan in 1934, then, the following year, in Kwang-If and Guangdong.
The relationship with Marcellin Boule was disrupted; the Museum cut
its financing on the grounds that Teilhard worked more for the Chinese
Geological Service than for the Museum.
During all these years, Teilhard strongly contributed to the constitution
of an international network of research in human Paleontology related
to the whole Eastern and south Eastern zone of the Asian continent.
He would be particularly associated in this task with two Anglo-Saxon
friends, the English/Canadian Davidson Black and the Scot George B.
Barbour. Many times he would visit France or the United States, only
to leave these countries to go on further expeditions.
From 1927-1928 Teilhard stayed in France, based in Paris. He journeyed
to Leuven, Belgium, to Cantal, and to Ariège, France. Between
several articles in reviews, he met new people such as Paul Valery and
Bruno de Solages, who was to help him in issues with the Roman Catholic
Answering an invitation from Henry de Monfreid, Teilhard undertook a
journey of two months in Obock in Harrar and in Somalia with his colleague
Pierre Lamarre, geologist, before embarking in Djibouti to return to
"Monfreid and I, we did not have anything any more European",
joked Teilhard. "Once we dropped anchor, at night, along the basaltic
cliffs where the incense grew. The men were going by dugout to fish
odd fishes within the corals. One day, Hissas sold us a kid goat with
camel milk. The crew took this opportunity "to dedicate" the
ship. The old reheated Negro who served Monfreid in his whole adventures
dyed with blood the rudder, the mast, the front part of the ship, then,
later in the night, it was the song of the Koran in the medium of thick
From 1930-1931 Teilhard stayed in France and in the United States. During
a conference in Paris, Teilhard stated: "For the observers of the
Future, the greatest event will be the sudden appearance of a collective
humane conscience and a human work to make."
From 1932-1933 he began to meet people to clarify issues with the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith, regarding Le Milieu Divin and L'Esprit
de la Terre. He met Helmut von Terra, a German geologist in the International
Geology Congress in Washington, DC. A few months later Davidson Black
Teilhard participated in the 1935 Yale-Cambridge expedition in northern
and central India with the geologist Helmut von Terra and Patterson,
who verified their assumptions on Indian paleolithic civilisations in
Kashmir and the Salt Range Valley.
He then made a short stay in Java, on the invitation of Professor Ralph
von Koenigsvald to the site of Java man. A second cranium, more complete,
was discovered. This Dutch paleontologist had found (in 1933) a tooth
in a Chinese apothecary shop in 1934 that he believed belonged to a
giant tall ape that lived around half a million years ago.
In 1937 Teilhard wrote Le Phénomène spirituel (the spiritual
Phenomenon) on board the boat the Empress of Japan, where he met the
Rajah of Sarawak). The ship conveyed him to the United States. He received
the Mendel medal granted by Villanova University during the Congress
of Philadelphia in recognition of his works on human paleontology. He
made a speech about evolution, origins and the destiny of Man. The New
York Times dated March 19, 1937 presented Teilhard as the Jesuit who
held that the man descended from monkeys. Some days later, he was to
be granted Doctor honoris causa of the Catholic University of Boston.
When coming to the meeting, he was told that the distinction had been
He then stayed in France, where he was immobilized by malaria. During
his return voyage in Beijing he wrote L'Energie spirituelle de la Souffrance
(Spiritual Energy of the Suffering) (Complete Works, tome VII).
To Teilhard de Chardin evolution unfolded from cell to organism to planet
to solar system and whole-universe (see Gaia theory).
, paleontologist, Jesuit priest and philosopher, was born in Auvergne,
France. He lectured in science at the Jesuit College in Cairo, became
professor of geology at the Intitut Catholique in Paris, and studied
at the Institute of Human Paleontology at the Museum of Natural History
in Paris. In 1922 he obtained his doctorate and a year later left France
on a paleontological expedition to China, where he stayed until 1946.
His many writings include Building the Earth, Le Milieu Divin, Trialogues
at the Edge of the West, various essays. His major work, The Phenomenon
of Man (written 1938-40) was posthumously published. Based on Teilhardís
scientific thinking, it argues the humanity is in a continuous process
of evolution towards a perfect spiritual state.
Today Teilhard is best known for his unique evolutionary cosmology which
supporters believe predicted the arrival of a global "internet"
more than half a century before its creation. Teilhard described this
"Noosphere" as a global network of trade, communication, exchange
of knowledge and cooperative research which would ultimately weave into
a sphere of collective thought. He also imagined this next evolutionary
stage of humanity as a complex membrane of information enveloping the
globe and fueled by human consciousness. Teilhard maintained that humankinds
combined achievements, the only realized purpose in the universe, would
be secured and advanced through this global network of collective minds.
Born: May 1, 1881 in Orcines, France
Died: April 10, 1955
Ordained a priest: August 24, 1911
Chardin was a Jesuit priest who was unusual active in paleontology and
the research into the search for the origins of the human species -
he was even present at the discovery of Peking Man. He worked on paleontological
expeditions to both Africa and China and served as a professor of geology
at the Institut Catholique in Paris, France.
This work in paleontology and geology seem to have had an important
impact upon his theological thinking and his writings reveal attempts
to combine traditional theology with modern scientific principles and
discoveries. He even treated Christianity itself as a system which evolved
into greater and greater complexity and higher levels of consciousness.
The orthodoxy of his writings came under scrutiny and he had to answer
questions before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He
also refrained from publishing many of his ideas while he was still
alive, entrusting them with non-clerical friends for publication after