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
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
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
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 !"
in The Book of Catholic Authors, Walter Romig, Sixth Series,