imageWe must be careful in what we say and what we write about Pope Francis as to him being a scientist or chemist. It’s not that he isn’t very well educated and fully qualified to be the pope. He is. But in our enthusiasm to have a pontiff trained in science who can thus relate to the shroud from that background, we must be careful to not overstate his credentials. Countless news outlets probably have it wrong. His official  biography probably has it right when it states that “[h]e studied as and holds a degree as a chemical technician.” But that degree may be from a high school and not from college level studies.

Wikipedia, also, probably has it right, at this time (See below). But look at this list of press articles. This is just a sample:

Forbes:  Pope Francis, Scientist: Or at least, he was. When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a young man, he graduated from technical school as a Chemical Technician. He then earned his Masters Degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aries. It was only after that that he decided to become a priest.

USA Today: A scientist pope and high-tech Catholicism: “Many of us are still trying to learn about the new pontiff. We know a few things already. He is not only a man of faith, but also science — a chemist, by training.”

NBC: Meet the new pope: Francis is humble leader who takes the bus to work: “Francis earned a degree in chemistry and was ordained a priest in December 1969. He was named archbishop of Buenos Aires in 1998.”  and “He has a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires.”

Parade: 10 Things to Know About Pope Francis: “He’s a scientist. On top of his philosophy degree from the Catholic University of Buenos Aires, he also has a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Buenos Aires.”

Live Science, the Telegraph, the Guardian, Biography, Catholic News, Christian Post, Chronicles of Higher Education . . . The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and The Associated Press all just say he studied as or was trained as a chemist without any specifics, according to Wikipedia. But those missing specifics may be just that he has a high school degree that qualifies him as a chemistry technician. He has other university degrees but possibly not in science.

The list goes on and on. And the story that Pope Francis is a scientist, a chemist with a Masters Degree, gets repeated in countless blogs and other news outlets.

And here is the latest from Wikipedia discussions (bolding mine):

I dont think the cite that says he got a masters degree is accurate. In this newspaper they claim he studied chemistry in high school. Additionally, at that time there were no masters degree in Argentina, the closest you can get is an "engineering" degree. bcartolo (talk) 21:40, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

The detailed reference above supports Bcartolo’s comment; it gives details of the school from wich he graduated as chemical technician, and says that he decided to follow the priesthood at 21 (too young for a master’s degree). In point of fact I do think that in 1957 there was a degree of "licenciado en ciencias químicas", which is comparable to a master’s (at least 4 years), though the reference above implies Bergoglio didn’t study for it. There certainly was such a degree a few years later. I suppose that this will be clarified as time goes by. Pol098 (talk) 01:11, 14 March 2013 (UTC)
There are lots of reliable sources that say it was a masters and name the university, such as this one and this one. It looks like he decided to become a priest at 21, but that doesn’t mean that he had graduated at that point; for all we know he continued his chemistry studies for a time before or while he had entered the Jesuits. He wasn’t ordained until he was 32. (Also, do you speak Spanish? I don’t, but I’m reticent to trust a machine translation for the Spanish-language source.) Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 00:30, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
Also: this source is from 2005, so we can be sure the recent sources weren’t just copying the Wikipedia article. Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 00:37, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
Chemistry in Ciencias Exactas was a fairly gruelling full-time 4-year course, preceded by a 1-year evening preparatory course. Conceivably he could have been studying chemical engineering (different building, different location at that time), but that was no easy option either. The references are fairly specific that he graduated from secondary school as a chemical technician. I have been thinking "either-or" with blinkers on (technician or university), but of course it’s quite sensible to do chemistry both in school first and at university level afterwards, so it’s conceivable he did both. On the one hand it’s utterly unimportant anyway; on the other it’ll probably come out in the wash eventually. Searching in Spanish finds lots of references to him being a chemical technician, but they probably derive from Wikipedia anyway! So I think I should leave this alone. Chemists (and physicists) have probably been doing too much running things in living memory (Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Francis…) Best wishes, Pol098 (talk) 01:34, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
Don’t forget Mohamed Morsi (I reckon materials science is close enough…) Anyway, the official biography refers to "a degree as a chemical technician" which is also somewhat ambiguous. I think since we have sources on both sides we should mention both degrees for now, expressing appropriate caution, and if new sources clarify the matter we can update as needed. Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 02:56, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

Yeah, sources may be ambiguous, but WP has to be squeaky clean in its accuracy and balance. Tony (talk) 03:05, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

If that’s what the official biography says, I would quote it exactly and drop the rest. If somebody is a licenciado en ciencias químicas, or an ingeniero químico (not sure of wording actually used for engineer, conceivably ingeniero en química), he would not be described as a technician. The Spanish version of the official Web site (Spanish as his language and the language he studied and graduated in) says "Estudió y se diplomó como Técnico Quimico"—"he studied and graduated as a chemical technician" which in my opinion unambiguously does not say he has a university degree, there is no Argentine university degree of "técnico", much less equivalent to a masters degree, and there is such a qualification from an industrial secondary school. The capitals imply the formal name of a qualification. The Italian site uses the same wording as the Spanish, without the capitals. But I probably won’t edit further myself unless real rubbish gets written. Pol098 (talk) 04:48, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

I am fluent in Spanish because I am from Argentina. I am pretty sure by now that he is a chemistry technician, a degree awarded by a high school. I also believe the masters degree was made up by the catholic telegraph, catholic herald or catholic news. I will call the university today and request they make a formal statement and post it in the web page today. Wish me luck with that, there is a lot of bureaucracy involved. bcartolo (talk) 12:27, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the detective work, I’m interested to see the resolution either way. I suppose someone could have mistranslated or misunderstood the Spanish name of the degree and published it in an English-language source, but in that case it would be odd that a specific university was named. Hopefully the matter will be explicitly clarified. Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 17:18, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
Another (admittedly not all that decisive) piece of evidence: many recent sources such as this one contain the sentence "He became a priest at 32, nearly a decade after losing a lung due to respiratory illness and quitting his chemistry studies." This implies that he quit his chemistry studies no more than nine years before being ordained, at the age of 23 at the youngest, which is reasonable for a masters degree. This means that he would have had to continue his university studies for a few years after deciding to become a preist (at the age of 21) and becoming a member of the Jesuits. Of course, it could also be the sources being imprecise with their language. Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 17:32, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
Curiouser and curiouser. There are lots of sources mentioning the masters degree, but the only pre-2013 source I can find on the Internet is this 2005 source from Catholic News Service. Meanwhile, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and The Associated Press all just say he studied as or was trained as a chemist without any specifics. Antony–22 (talkcontribs) 17:58, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

As I said, bureaucracy can take some time to decide this. We must be patient. Regarding the name of the university, it can be made up, you see UBA is the most important university there so someone could have assumed the pope went there. bcartolo (talk) 00:56, 16 March 2013 (UTC)