Since becoming Catholic I have become delighted in seeing how many Catholics in history were involved in science, especially priests. Wikipedia’s List of Catholic scientists is a good start.
Casimir Zeglen was truly a man of the cloth. He was a Catholic priest — with an obsession for silk underwear — but the pleasure he got from silk touching skin was because it stopped bullets.
Okay the opening to the story is clumsy.
The Chicago priest is credited with inventing the first bulletproof vest, a calling he answered in 1893 after the city’s mayor was gunned down.
Zeglen is an unlikely figure in the history of preventing such violent deaths. Born a peasant in the Ukraine, he entered a monastery there at 18. Fearing he would be forced to serve in the Austrian army, he asked to be sent away to serve a church. He eventually landed at a Polish church in Chicago in 1890.
By Zeglen’s own account, the assassination of Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison made him realize he wanted to “create a product of great usefulness to the world.” He began experimenting with a cloth made from moss, hair and steel shavings.
He turned to silk when he read an 1887 article by a physician who described a man who was shot but saved by a silk handkerchief in his breast pocket. The doctor, George Goodfellow, conducted his own experiments with silk that was as thick as 18 to 30 layers.
At the source of this article you can see pictures of Fr. Casimir Zeglen wearing the vest while being shot at by Chicago policeman. There is even a video of this.
Wikipedia has more details.
A 1⁄8 in (3.175 mm) thick, four ply bulletproof vest produced there was able to protect the wearer from the lower velocity pistol bullets of that era. Zeglen himself submitted to a test in Chicago. He put on a vest of the material and an expert revolver shot fired at the vest at eight paces and not one of the bullets disturbed Zeglen. The weight of the fabric was 1⁄2 lb (0.23 kg) per sq ft (0.093 m²).