Jesuits have had ah interest in observing and explaining geophysical phenomena since this religious order, the Society of Jesus, was founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1540. Three principal factors contributed to this interest: their educational work in colleges and universities, their missionary endeavors to remote lands where they observed interesting and often as yet undocumented natural phenomena, and a network of communication that brought research of other Jesuits readily to their awareness.
One of the first and most important Jesuit colleges was the Roman College (today the Gregorian University) founded in 1551 in Rome, which served as a model for many other universities throughout the world. By 1572, Christopher Clavius (1537–1612), professor of mathematics at the Roman College, had already initiated an important tradition of Jesuit research by emphasizing applied mathematics and insisting on the need of serious study of mathematics in the program of studies in the humanities. In 1547 he directed a publication of Euclid's work with commentaries, and published several treatises on mathematics, including Arithmetica Practica , Gnomonicae , and Geometrica Practica . Clavius was also a Copernican and supported his friend Galileo when he announced the discovery of the satellites of Jupiter.