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William F. Rigge, SJ, Papers


Father William Rigge

William F. Rigge, S.J., was born September 9, 1857, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1875. As a young scholastic, Rigge came to Omaha in 1878 along with Father Roman Shaffel and three other Jesuit scholastics to open the new Creighton College. In 1881, William left Omaha for his theological and academic studies, although he kept in touch with Creighton through correspondence and visits with his older brother Joseph F. Rigge, SJ (who taught science here in from 1885 to 1893). In 1896, William was reassigned to Creighton for a distinguished career as a teacher and scientist. His research, much of which involved the Creighton Observatory, was published widely and earned him local and international recognition. Creighton remained his home until his death on March 31, 1927.





Much of Father Rigge's work was in astronomy, specifically the study of eclipses. He is the reason Creighton University has an observatory (located in the Jesuit gardens today). In fact, the observatory on Creighton's campus was the first observatory in Omaha. Other astronomical phenomena Father Rigge studied include comets and planetary movement. He was very dedicated to his work, and even wrote a piece about the contributions Catholic figures have made in the field of astronomy, titled What Have Catholics Done for Astronomy?




Working with Students

The photograph on the left captures Father Rigge's annual class visit to a site used during his study of shadows for a court case. As a professor first and foremost, Father Rigge frequently incorporated students into his research. In the words of Reverend James McCabe, published in Popular Astronomy, "By word and example [Rigge] taught his students to make use of all the knowledge they possessed, and he encouraged them to go far afield in research work."



His Published Work

Father Rigge published a variety of works on astronomy, many of which were widely recognized within the scientific community of his day. His commitment to his work was unrivaled, which those who knew him could testify as Father McCabe could, as well as many others. According to Father McCabe, his writings appeared "in Popular Astronomy, Astronomische Nachrichten, the Astrophysical Journal, the Technology Quarterly, the Scientific American, Science, and publications of the United States Naval Observatory." The topics on which he wrote varies from eclipses, comets, planetary life (specifically Mars), shadows, and mathematical certainties like cuspidal rosettes. His work not only provided academic contributions to his students and the wider community, but he once saved a man from prison by proving the latter had not planted "an infernal machine" on his enemy's porch using his work on shadows (read the whole story here).

The Creighton University Archives has uploaded some of Father Rigge's published works online, which can be found here. We have also published some of his maps of Creighton's growth as well as his Memoirs.



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