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John Augustine Zahm Papers

Identifier: JZA

Scope and Content

Manuscripts of works by Zahm, including his South American trilogy and Women in Science; publications by Zahm; correspondence, bills, and receipts concerning purchases of Italian books and art, 1901-1906; personal correspondence, lectures, drafts of essays, pamphlets, postcards, a bibliography on women, articles on Zahm published after his death; tintypes and albumen and silver gelatin photographs, with images of South America, including pictures of Zahm and Theodore Roosevelt, with whom he travelled there, and other images from Zahm's life; and artifacts.


  • Creation: 1849-1959


Language of Materials



John Augustine Zahm, born 14 June 1851 in New Lexington, Ohio, entered the University of Notre Dame in 1867, received his A.B. in 1871, and his M.A. in 1873. Ordained a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1875, Zahm served as a professor of physics and administrator at Notre Dame until 1892. Intensely interested in upgrading the academic programs, Zahm also helped introduce the electric lighting and private residence hall systems to the campus. In 1892 he began writing about the problem of dogma and science, his most famous work being Evolution and Dogma published in 1896.

In 1896 Zahm became Procurator General of the Congregation of Holy Cross and spent the next two years in Rome, where he took an active part in the Americanist controversy, procured papal approval of Holy Cross College as a House of Studies for Holy Cross seminarians, and participated in the spirited debate over theories of evolution, particularly as they concerned his own book.

In 1898 he returned to Notre Dame as Provincial. He was active in building up the physical plant at Notre Dame, encouraging a higher level of scholarship, and attempting to smooth out relations with the Holy Cross Brothers while expanding the Congregation as a whole. Opposition, apparently both to his policies and to his personality, gained enough strength by 1906 to account for his failure to gain re-election as Provincial in the General Chapter.

Zahm spent the next fifteen years traveling, making two extended trips to South America, and writing about the people and places that intrigued him. His 1907 journey led to his two volumes, Up the Orinoco and Down the Magdalena and Along the Andes and Down the Amazon , published under the pseudonym H.J. Mozans. In 1913 his traveling companion was the former president, Theodore Roosevelt. His subsequent book, Through South America's Southland , completed his trilogy on South America.

Among his other published works was Women in Science (1913), a popular history of women's struggle for intellectual freedom and their accomplishments in the various scientific fields. Zahm's last work, From Berlin to Bagdad and Babylon was in manuscript form when he left for Europe in 1921 on a journey from Germany to the Middle East during which he hoped to verify some of his data. He contracted bronchial pneumonia and died in a hospital in Munich 10 November 1921.


3 linear feet. 520 photographs.