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O.A. Battista


O. A. BATTISTA IS THE BY-LINE I HAVE SETTLED upon, and the reason is easy enough to understand: the O stands for Orlando and the A for Aloysius. I was born in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, on June 20, 1917, to Canadian parents of modest means. Fortunately for me my devout Catholic parents did not believe in "planned parenthood." I was the seventh of eight children (six boys and two girls). My father, James L. Battista, was an employee of the Canadian government for almost thirty years.

At an early age I had to assist in bringing home the family bacon by shoveling snow, carrying a newspaper route, and tending furnaces as early as 5:30 on Canadian mornings when the temperature was from 20 to 30 degrees below zero. In addition, I had the privilege of serving as an altar boy at a nearby hospital chapel for a period of eleven years. My mother did have to nudge me occasionally to get me up in time, especially on very cold winter mornings, because Mass started at 6:00 A.M.

When I was twelve, I had saved enough from my newspaper route ($6.00) to invest in an old-fashioned threerow English Empire typewriter. With it I began feverishly writing novels. In my office today I have five of these crudely typed stories, none of which found a publisher. The local postmaster was baffled; he couldn't understand why I spent my newspaper-route profits on postage stamps to keep the manuscripts moving. Nor could my parents understand what drove me to type till the wee hours of the morning on these novels. But it was encouraging to receive personal letters from such editors as De Witt Wallace of Readers' Digest, Ken McCormick of Doubleday, and Al Croft of Bruce, which were largely responsible for keeping me at my writing despite the disappointments and the rejection slips.

Unable to break into the money as a teenage author, my interests became partly diverted to chemistry during my high school days. Following graduation from Gonzaga High School and Cornwall collegiate Institute, I headed for McGill University as a chemistry major, not knowing where I would get the money to complete my studies.

As an undergraduate at McGill I engaged in many extracurricular activities, some of which were income orientated. I was a feature writer for the college daily and began to write magazine articles successfully in my sophomore year. The first one I sold brought me a check for $2.50 from Francis A. Fink, managing editor of Our Sunday Visitor. You have to experience the thrill of a first writing check to understand how terrific it can be! I invested the $2.50 in postage to keep my manuscripts flowing to editors. Fortunately, sales kept picking up after that first break.

Along with my current industrial scientific research I have managed to write hundreds of popular scientific articles during the past twenty-three years since that first check in 1937. Many of these have appeared in such magazines as The Saturday Evening Post, The Magnificat, Readers' Digest, Red Book, and The Catholic Digest.

My first successful entry into the book field was in 1957 when How to Enjoy Work and Get More Fun Out of Life was published by Prentice-Hall. It gave my personal formula for enjoying work and getting paid more while doing it. My second book, an effort which extended over a period of fifteen years, was God's World and You, published by Bruce in 1957. These were followed by Fundamentals of High Polymers (Reinhold, 1958), The Challenge of Chemistry (Winston, 1959), The Power to Influence People (Prentice-Hall, 1960), and Common Science in Everyday Life (Bruce, 1960). I am now under contract to complete three more books by the end of 1961.

Beginning about 1940, I began a rather disciplined approach to the writing of original epigrams. Since then I have written more than 19,000, many of which I call "Quotoons". That is the registered trademark title for a syndicated newspaper column which I write for more than fifty American and Canadian papers.

I became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1947. In 1955 I was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by St. Vincent College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

On August 25, 1945, I married Helen Francis Keffer. We have two fine children, William and Elizabeth Ann. Our home is in Drexel Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia.

Practically everything we do is planned and carried out together. Now that our children are old enough to accompany us, we attend movies and plays together; we are avid ice skaters, bicyclists, and badminton players.

As a member of the American Chemical Society, I have been active on important committees, being at present chairman of the Division of Cellulose Chemistry. I helped to organize and initiate the activities of the International Committee for Cellulose Analyses. I am also a member of the Franklin Institute, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of Science Writers, and the American Medical Writers' Association.

In May of 1947 1 was invited, as a science writer, to be the principal speaker at the national convention of the Catholic Press Association in St. Paul. A pressing case had made it impossible for J. Edgar Hoover, the scheduled speaker, to appear. So Father Paul Bussard, publisher of the Catholic Digest, in which I had been writing for years, telephoned me an invitation to pinch-hit for the Director of the F.B.I. Even on such short notice I accepted. Father sent me plane tickets and expense money, and I prepared and memorized my talk on the plane. To these hundreds of editors I spoke on the author's side of the writing coin, and it won me many editorial friends.

As a scientist, I strongly disagree with the contention that is all too prevalent, that scientists are frequently uninterested in religion, that they are usually agnostics. I support the position that science, with all its power, does nothing more than reveal the magnificent handiwork of the Creator. In this I agree with the late Dr. Robert Milliken who said "A disbelief in God is the supreme expression of unintelligence !"

Originally published in The Book of Catholic Authors, Walter Romig, Sixth Series, 1960.


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