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Throughout the 18th century, absolutist monarchies supsicious of Jesuit loyolaties and fearful of their influence over the population implemented measures limiting the Society's power and legal standing. In 1773 Pope Clement XIV abolished the Society in response to increasing political pressure from France, Spain, and Prussia. The Jesuits lost most of their colleges and universities, many of which were turned into government offices, barracks, factories, or simply allowed to fall into disrepair. A few members of the Society were granted refuge in Russia, but the Jesuit community vanished from Europe. Jesuit scientific research suffered accordingly.

In 1814 Pope Pius VII, appreciative of the Jesuits' contributions to education, sanctioned the re-establishment of the order. Over the next forty years surviving members and new recruits struggled to rebuild Jesuit traditions and institutions. Scientific education and research re-emerged as core values of the "New Society".