For the members of the Society of Jesus who assumed the personae studied in this book, the figures of the saintly mathematician, the apologetic voyager, the Jesuit academician, and even the edifying and curious épistolier constituted broadly recognizable and defensible modes of life that allowed them to make sense of their varied scientific activities in the mission fields. Neither dictated by institutional fiat nor fashioned at will, these collective identities emerged from the collaborative cobblings of Jesuits in both early modern Europe and late imperial China who sought to promote scientific specialization as part of an apostolic enterprise. In drawing on the spectacular mathematics popular in princely courts throughout the Holy Roman Empire, the dry observational protocols promoted by members of the Parisian Académie des sciences, a characteristically hagiographic form of personal providentialism, or the early modern travelogue's obsession with novelty, such image making was historically specific and socially complex in ways that the Pauline injunction to “become all things to all” could not anticipate.
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