Athanasius Kircher, S.J. (sometimes erroneously spelled Kirchner; Latin: Athanasius Kircherus, 2 May 1602 – 28 November 1680) was a German Jesuit scholar and polymath who published around 40 major works, most notably in the fields of comparative religion, geology, and medicine. Kircher has been compared to fellow Jesuit Roger Boscovich and to Leonardo da Vinci for his enormous range of interests, and has been honored with the title "Master of a Hundred Arts". He taught for more than forty years at the Roman College, where he set up a wunderkammer. A resurgence of interest in Kircher has occurred within the scholarly community in recent decades.
Kircher claimed to have deciphered the hieroglyphic writing of the ancient Egyptian language, but most of his assumptions and translations in this field were later found to be incorrect. He did, however, correctly establish the link between the ancient Egyptian and the Coptic languages, and some commentators regard him as the founder of Egyptology. Kircher was also fascinated with Sinology and wrote an encyclopedia of China, in which he noted the early presence there of Nestorian Christians while also attempting to establish links with Egypt and Christianity.
Kircher's work in geology included studies of volcanoes and fossils. One of the first people to observe microbes through a microscope, Kircher was ahead of his time in proposing that the plague was caused by an infectious microorganism and in suggesting effective measures to prevent the spread of the disease. Kircher also displayed a keen interest in technology and mechanical inventions; inventions attributed to him include a magnetic clock, various automatons and the first megaphone. The invention of the magic lantern is often misattributed to Kircher, although he did conduct a study of the principles involved in his Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae.
A scientific star in his day, towards the end of his life he was eclipsed by the rationalism of René Descartes and others. In the late 20th century, however, the aesthetic qualities of his work again began to be appreciated. One modern scholar, Alan Cutler, described Kircher as "a giant among seventeenth-century scholars", and "one of the last thinkers who could rightfully claim all knowledge as his domain". Another scholar, Edward W. Schmidt, referred to Kircher as "the last Renaissance man". In A Man of Misconceptions, his 2012 book about Kircher, John Glassie writes that while "many of Kircher's actual ideas today seem wildly off-base, if not simply bizarre," he was "a champion of wonder, a man of awe-inspiring erudition and inventiveness," whose work was read "by the smartest minds of the time."
Athanasius Kircher, S.J.
Portrait of Kircher at age 53
from Mundus Subterraneus (1664)
|Born||2 May 1602|
|Died||28 November 1680 (aged 78)|
|Notable work(s)||Priest, scholar and scientist |
|Order||Society of Jesus|
Kircher was born on 2 May in either 1601 or 1602 (he himself did not know) in Geisa, Buchonia, near Fulda, currently Hesse, Germany. From his birthplace he took the epithets Bucho, Buchonius and Fuldensis which he sometimes added to his name. He attended the Jesuit College in Fulda from 1614 to 1618, when he entered the novitiate of the Society.
The youngest of nine children, Kircher studied volcanoes owing to his passion for rocks and eruptions. He was taught Hebrew by a rabbi in addition to his studies at school. He studied philosophy and theology at Paderborn, but fled to Cologne in 1622 to escape advancing Protestant forces. On the journey, he narrowly escaped death after falling through the ice crossing the frozen Rhine — one of several occasions on which his life was endangered. Later, traveling to Heiligenstadt, he was caught and nearly hanged by a party of Protestant soldiers.
From 1622 to 1624 Kircher was sent to begin his regency period in Koblenz as a teacher. This was followed by his assignment to Heiligenstadt, where he taught mathematics, Hebrew and Syriac, and produced a show of fireworks and moving scenery for the visiting Elector Archbishop of Mainz, showing early evidence of his interest in mechanical devices. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1628 and became professor of ethics and mathematics at the University of Würzburg, where he also taught Hebrew and Syriac. Beginning in 1628, he also began to show an interest in Egyptian hieroglyphs.
In 1631, while still at Würzburg, Kircher allegedly had a prophetic vision of bright light and armed men with horses in the city. Wurzburg was shortly afterwards attacked and captured, leading to Kircher being accorded respect for predicting the disaster via astrology, though Kircher himself privately insisted that he had not relied on that art. This was the year that Kircher published his first book (the Ars Magnesia, reporting his research on magnetism), but having been caught up in the Thirty Years' War he was driven to the papal University of Avignon in France. In 1633 he was called to Vienna by the emperor to succeed Kepler as Mathematician to the Habsburg court. On the intervention of Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, the order was rescinded, and he was sent instead to Rome to continue with his scholarly work, but he had already embarked for Vienna.
On the way, his ship was blown off course and he arrived in Rome before he knew of the changed decision. He based himself in the city for the rest of his life, and from 1634 he taught mathematics, physics and Oriental languages at the Collegio Romano (now the Pontifical Gregorian University) for several years before being released to devote himself to research. He studied malaria and the plague, amassing a collection of antiquities, which he exhibited along with devices of his own creation in the Museum Kircherianum.
In 1661, Kircher discovered the ruins of a church said to have been constructed by Constantine on the site of Saint Eustace's vision of Jesus Christ in a stag's horns. He raised money to pay for the church's reconstruction as the Santuario della Mentorella, and his heart was buried in the church on his death.
Kircher published a large number of substantial books on a very wide variety of subjects, such as Egyptology, geology, and music theory. His syncretic approach disregarded the boundaries between disciplines which are now conventional: his Magnes, for example, was ostensibly a discussion of magnetism, but also explored other forms of attraction such as gravity and love. Perhaps Kircher's best-known work today is his Oedipus Aegyptiacus (1652–54), a vast study of Egyptology and comparative religion.
His books, written in Latin, were widely circulated in the 17th century, and they contributed to the dissemination of scientific information to a broader circle of readers. Kircher is not now considered to have made any significant original contributions, although a number of discoveries and inventions (e.g., the magic lantern) have sometimes been mistakenly attributed to him.
In his foreword to Ars Magna Sciendi Sive Combinatoria (The Great Art of Knowledge, or the Combinatorial Art), the inscription reads:
"Nothing is more beautiful than to know all."
The last known example of Egyptian hieroglyphics dates from AD 394, after which all knowledge of hieroglyphics was lost. Until Thomas Young and Jean-François Champollion found the key to hieroglyphics in the 19th century, the main authority was the 4th century Greek grammarian Horapollon, whose chief contribution was the misconception that hieroglyphics were "picture writing" and that future translators should look for symbolic meaning in the pictures.
The first modern study of hieroglyphics came with Piero Valeriano Bolzani's Hieroglyphica (1556), and Kircher was the most famous of the "decipherers" between ancient and modern times and the most famous Egyptologist of his day. In his Lingua Aegyptiaca Restituta (1643), Kircher called hieroglyphics "this language hitherto unknown in Europe, in which there are as many pictures as letters, as many riddles as sounds, in short as many mazes to be escaped from as mountains to be climbed". While some of his notions are long discredited, portions of his work have been valuable to later scholars, and Kircher helped pioneer Egyptology as a field of serious study.
Kircher's interest in Egyptology began in 1628 when he became intrigued by a collection of hieroglyphs in the library at Speyer. He learned Coptic in 1633 and published the first grammar of that language in 1636, the Prodromus coptus sive aegyptiacus. Kircher then broke with Horapollon's interpretation of the language of the hieroglyphs with his Lingua aegyptiaca restituta. Kircher argued that Coptic preserved the last development of ancient Egyptian. For this Kircher has been considered the true "founder of Egyptology", because his work was conducted "before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone rendered Egyptian hieroglyphics comprehensible to scholars". He also recognized the relationship between hieratic and hieroglyphic scripts.
Between 1650 and 1654, Kircher published four volumes of "translations" of hieroglyphs in the context of his Coptic studies. However, according to Steven Frimmer, "none of them even remotely fitted the original texts". In Oedipus Aegyptiacus, Kircher argued under the impression of the Hieroglyphica that ancient Egyptian was the language spoken by Adam and Eve, that Hermes Trismegistus was Moses, and that hieroglyphs were occult symbols which "cannot be translated by words, but expressed only by marks, characters and figures." This led him to translate simple hieroglyphic texts now known to read as ḏd Wsr ("Osiris says") as "The treachery of Typhon ends at the throne of Isis; the moisture of nature is guarded by the vigilance of Anubis"
According to the Egyptologist Sir E. A. Wallis Budge:
Many writers pretended to have found the key to the hieroglyphics, and many more professed, with a shameless impudence which is hard to understand in these days, to translate the contents of the texts into a modern tongue. Foremost among such pretenders must be mentioned Athanasius Kircher, who, in the 17th century, declared that he had found the key to the hieroglyphic inscriptions; the translations which he prints in his Oedipus Aegyptiacus are utter nonsense, but as they were put forth in a learned tongue many people at the time believed they were correct.
Although Kircher's approach to deciphering texts was based on a fundamental misconception, some modern commentators have described Kircher as the pioneer of the serious study of hieroglyphs. The data which he collected were later consulted by Champollion in his successful efforts to decode the script. According to Joseph MacDonnell, it was "because of Kircher's work that scientists knew what to look for when interpreting the Rosetta stone". Another scholar of ancient Egypt, Erik Iversen, concluded:
It is therefore Kircher's incontestable merit that he was the first to have discovered the phonetic value of an Egyptian hieroglyph. From a humanistic as well as an intellectual point of view Egyptology may very well be proud of having Kircher as its founder.
Kircher was also actively involved in the erection of obelisks in Roman squares, often adding fantastic "hieroglyphs" of his design in the blank areas that are now puzzling to modern scholars. Rowland 2002 concluded that Kircher made use of Pythagorean principles to read hieroglyphs of the Pamphili Obelisk, and used the same form of interpretation when reading scripture.
Kircher had an early interest in China, telling his superior in 1629 that he wished to become a missionary to that country. In 1667 he published a treatise whose full title was China monumentis, qua sacris qua profanis, nec non variis naturae & artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata, and which is commonly known simply as China Illustrata, i.e. "China Illustrated". It was a work of encyclopedic breadth, combining material of unequal quality, from accurate cartography to mythical elements, such as a study of dragons. The work drew heavily on the reports of Jesuits working in China, in particular Michael Boym and Martino Martini.
China Illustrata emphasized the Christian elements of Chinese history, both real and imagined: the book noted the early presence of Nestorian Christians (with a Latin translation of the Nestorian Stele of Xi'an provided by Boym and his Chinese collaborator, Andrew Zheng), but also claimed that the Chinese were descended from the sons of Ham, that Confucius was Hermes Trismegistus/Moses and that the Chinese characters were abstracted hieroglyphs.
In Kircher's system, ideograms were inferior to hieroglyphs because they referred to specific ideas rather than to mysterious complexes of ideas, while the signs of the Maya and Aztecs were yet lower pictograms which referred only to objects. Umberto Eco comments that this idea reflected and supported the ethnocentric European attitude toward Chinese and native American civilizations;
"China was presented not as an unknown barbarian to be defeated but as a prodigal son who should return to the home of the common father". (p. 69)
In 1675, he published Arca Noë, the results of his research on the biblical Ark of Noah — following the Counter-Reformation, allegorical interpretation was giving way to the study of the Old Testament as literal truth among Scriptural scholars. Kircher analyzed the dimensions of the Ark; based on the number of species known to him (excluding insects and other forms thought to arise spontaneously), he calculated that overcrowding would not have been a problem. He also discussed the logistics of the Ark voyage, speculating on whether extra livestock was brought to feed carnivores and what the daily schedule of feeding and caring for animals must have been.
Kircher was sent the Voynich Manuscript in 1666 by Johannes Marcus Marci in the hope of Kircher being able to decipher it. The manuscript remained in the Collegio Romano until Victor Emmanuel II of Italy annexed the Papal States in 1870, though scepticism as to the authenticity of the story and of the origin of the manuscript itself exists. In his Polygraphia nova (1663), Kircher proposed an artificial universal language.
On a visit to southern Italy in 1638, the ever-curious Kircher was lowered into the crater of Vesuvius, then on the brink of eruption, to examine its interior. He was also intrigued by the subterranean rumbling which he heard at the Strait of Messina. His geological and geographical investigations culminated in his Mundus Subterraneus of 1664, in which he suggested that the tides were caused by water moving to and from a subterranean ocean.
Kircher was also puzzled by fossils. He understood that fossils were the remains of animals. He ascribed large bones to giant races of humans. Not all the objects which he was attempting to explain were in fact fossils, hence the diversity of explanations. He interpreted mountain ranges as the Earth's skeletal structures exposed by weathering.
Mundus Subterraneus includes several pages about the legendary island of Atlantis including a map with the Latin caption "Situs Insulae Atlantidis, a Mari olim absorpte ex mente Egyptiorum et Platonis descriptio." translating as "Site of the island of Atlantis, in the sea, from Egyptian sources and Plato's description."
In his book Arca Noë, Kircher argued that after the Flood new species were transformed as they moved into different environments, for example, when a deer moved into a colder climate, it became a reindeer. Additionally, he held that many species were hybrids of other species, for example, armadillos from a combination of turtles and porcupines. He also advocated the theory of spontaneous generation. Because of such hypotheses, some historians have held that Kircher was a proto-evolutionist.
Kircher took a notably modern approach to the study of diseases, as early as 1646 using a microscope to investigate the blood of plague victims. In his Scrutinium Pestis of 1658, he noted the presence of "little worms" or "animalcules" in the blood and concluded that the disease was caused by microorganisms. The conclusion was correct, although it is likely that what he saw were in fact red or white blood cells and not the plague agent, Yersinia pestis. He also proposed hygienic measures to prevent the spread of disease, such as isolation, quarantine, burning clothes worn by the infected and wearing facemasks to prevent the inhalation of germs.
In 1646, Kircher published Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae, on the subject of the display of images on a screen using an apparatus similar to the magic lantern as developed by Christiaan Huygens and others. Kircher described the construction of a "catotrophic lamp" that used reflection to project images on the wall of a darkened room. Although Kircher did not invent the device, he made improvements over previous models, and suggested methods by which exhibitors could use his device. Much of the significance of his work arises from Kircher's rational approach towards the demystification of projected images.
Previously such images had been used in Europe to mimic supernatural appearances (Kircher himself cites the use of displayed images by the rabbis in the court of King Solomon). Kircher stressed that exhibitors should take great care to inform spectators that such images were purely naturalistic, and not magical in origin.
Kircher also constructed a magnetic clock, the mechanism of which he explained in his Magnes (1641). The device had originally been invented by another Jesuit, Fr. Linus of Liege, and was described by an acquaintance of Line's in 1634. Kircher's patron Peiresc had claimed that the clock's motion supported the Copernican cosmological model, the argument being that the magnetic sphere in the clock was caused to rotate by the magnetic force of the sun.
Kircher's model disproved the hypothesis, showing that the motion could be produced by a water clock in the base of the device. Although Kircher wrote against the Copernican model in his Magnes, supporting instead that of Tycho Brahe, his later Itinerarium exstaticum (1656, revised 1671), presented several systems — including the Copernican — as distinct possibilities. The clock has been reconstructed by Caroline Bouguereau in collaboration with Michael John Gorman and is on display at the Green Library at Stanford University.
The Musurgia Universalis (1650) sets out Kircher's views on music: he believed that the harmony of music reflected the proportions of the universe. The book includes plans for constructing water-powered automatic organs, notations of birdsong and diagrams of musical instruments. One illustration shows the differences between the ears of humans and other animals. In Phonurgia Nova (1673) Kircher considered the possibilities of transmitting music to remote places.
Other machines designed by Kircher include an aeolian harp, automatons such as a statue which spoke and listened via a speaking tube, a perpetual motion machine, and a Katzenklavier ("cat piano"). The last of these would have driven spikes into the tails of cats, which would yowl to specified pitches, although Kircher is not known to have actually constructed the instrument.
In Phonurgia Nova, literally new methods of sound production, Kircher examined acoustic phenomena. He explores the use of horns and cones in amplifying sound with architectural applications. He also examines the phenomena of echoes in rooms with domes of different shapes including the muffling effect of an elliptical dome from Heidelberg. In one section he also explores the therapeutic effects of music especially in tarantism, a theme from southern Italy.
Although Kircher's work was not mathematically based, he did develop various systems for generating and counting all combinations of a finite collection of objects (i.e., a finite set), based on the previous work of Ramon Llull. His methods and diagrams are discussed in Ars Magna Sciendi, sive Combinatoria, 1669. They include what may be the first recorded drawings of complete bipartite graphs, extending a similar technique used by Llull to visualize complete graphs. Kircher also employed combinatorics in his Arca Musarithmica, an aleatoric music composition device capable of producing millions of church hymns by combining randomly selected musical phrases.
For most of his professional life, Kircher was one of the scientific stars of his world: according to historian Paula Findlen, he was "the first scholar with a global reputation". His importance was twofold: to the results of his own experiments and research he added information gleaned from his correspondence with over 760 scientists, physicians and above all his fellow Jesuits in all parts of the globe. The Encyclopædia Britannica calls him a "one-man intellectual clearing house". His works, illustrated to his orders, were extremely popular, and he was the first scientist to be able to support himself through the sale of his books. His near exact contemporary, the English philosopher-physician, Sir Thomas Browne (1605–82) collected his books avidly while his eldest son Edward Browne in 1665 visited the Jesuit priest resident at Rome. Towards the end of Kircher's life however, his stock fell, as the rationalist Cartesian approach began to dominate (Descartes himself described Kircher as "more quacksalver than savant").
Kircher was largely neglected until the late 20th century. One writer attributes his rediscovery to the similarities between his eclectic approach and postmodernism.
As few of Kircher's works have been translated, the contemporary emphasis has been on their aesthetic qualities rather than their actual content, and a succession of exhibitions have highlighted the beauty of their illustrations. Historian Anthony Grafton has said that "the staggeringly strange dark continent of Kircher's work [is] the setting for a Borges story that was never written", while Umberto Eco has written about Kircher in his novel The Island of the Day Before, as well as in his non-fiction works The Search for the Perfect Language and Serendipities. In Where Tigers Are At Home, by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès, the protagonist works on a translation of a bogus 17th century biography of Kircher. The contemporary artist Cybèle Varela has paid tribute to Kircher in her exhibition Ad Sidera per Athanasius Kircher, held in the Collegio Romano, in the same place where the Museum Kircherianum was.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles has a hall dedicated to the life of Kircher. His ethnographic collection is in the Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome.
John Glassie's book, A Man of Misconceptions, traces connections between Kircher and figures such as Gianlorenzo Bernini, René Descartes, and Isaac Newton. It also suggests influences on Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Anton Mesmer, Jules Verne, and Marcel Duchamp.
In the end, Glassie writes, Kircher should be acknowledged “for his effort to know everything and to share everything he knew, for asking a thousand questions about the world around him, and for getting so many others to ask questions about his answers; for stimulating, as well as confounding and inadvertently amusing, so many minds; for having been a source of so many ideas—right, wrong, half-right, half-baked, ridiculous, beautiful, and all encompassing.”
Kircher's life and research are central to the plot of James Rollin's 2015 novel The Bone Labyrinth.
Kircher's principal works, in chronological order, are:
|1635||Primitiae gnomoniciae catroptricae|
|1636||Prodromus coptus sive aegyptiacus|
|1637||Specula Melitensis encyclica, hoc est syntagma novum instrumentorum physico- mathematicorum|
|1641||Magnes sive de arte magnetica||1643 edition (second ed.)|
|1643||Lingua aegyptiaca restituta|
|1645–1646||Ars Magna Lucis et umbrae||1646 edition|
|1650||Obeliscus Pamphilius: hoc est, Interpretatio noua & Hucusque Intentata Obelisci Hieroglyphici||1650 edition|
|1650||Musurgia universalis, sive ars magna consoni et dissoni||Volumes I and II, 1650|
|1654||Magnes sive (third, expanded edition)|
|1656||Itinerarium exstaticum s. opificium coeleste|
|1657||Iter exstaticum secundum, mundi subterranei prodromus|
|1658||Scrutinium Physico-Medicum Contagiosae Luis, quae dicitur Pestis|
|1660||Pantometrum Kircherianum ... explicatum a G. Schotto|
|1661||Diatribe de prodigiosis crucibus|
|1663||Polygraphia nova et universalis ex combinatoria arte directa|
|1664–1678||Mundus subterraneus, quo universae denique naturae divitiae||Tomus II, 1678 Digital edition Tomus I/II by the University and State Library Düsseldorf|
|1665||Historia Eustachio-Mariana||1665 edition|
|1665||Arithmologia sive De abditis numerorum mysterijs||1665 edition|
|1666||Obelisci Aegyptiaci ... interpretatio hieroglyphica|
|1667||China monumentis, qua sacris qua profanis, nec non variis naturae & artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata||Latin edition (1667) (pages with illustrations only); La Chine, 1670 (French, 1670); Modern English translation|
|1667||Magneticum naturae regnum sive disceptatio physiologica|
|1668||Organum mathematicum (contributor, edited and published by Gaspar Schott)|
|1669||Principis Cristiani archetypon politicum||1672 edition|
|1669||Ars magna sciendi sive combinatoria||1669 edition|
|1673||Phonurgia nova, sive conjugium mechanico-physicum artis & natvrae paranympha phonosophia concinnatum||1763 edition|
|1676||Sphinx mystagoga: sive Diatribe hieroglyphica, qua Mumiae, ex Memphiticis Pyramidum Adytis Erutae…||1676 edition|
|1679||Musaeum Collegii Romani Societatis Jesu|
|1679||Turris Babel, Sive Archontologia Qua Primo Priscorum post diluvium hominum vita, mores rerumque gestarum magnitudo, Secundo Turris fabrica civitatumque exstructio, confusio linguarum, & inde gentium transmigrationis, cum principalium inde enatorum idiomatum historia, multiplici eruditione describuntur & explicantur. Amsterdam, Jansson-Waesberge 1679.|
|1679||Tariffa Kircheriana sive mensa Pathagorica expansa|
|1680||Physiologia Kircheriana experimentalis||1680 edition|
The decade of the 1600s in archaeology involved some significant events.1665 in paleontology
Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1665.
Athanasius Kircher in his 1665 work Mundus subterraneus explained fossils as giant bones as those belonging to extinct races of giant humans.1680s in archaeology
The decade of the 1680s in archaeology involved some significant events.A Man of Misconceptions
A Man of Misconceptions: The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change is a biography written by John Glassie about Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century German Jesuit scholar, scientist, author, and inventor. Published by Riverhead Books in 2012, it is regarded by The New York Times as the first general-interest biography of Kircher, who has experienced a resurgence of academic attention in recent decades.The book traces Kircher's life from his birth in 1602 in Germany through his rise as a scholar at the Jesuit Collegio Romano to the decline of his reputation and his death in Rome in 1680. After Kircher arrived in Rome in 1633, a few months after the Galileo trial, he pursued myriad interests, authoring more than thirty books on such subjects as optics, magnetism, music, medicine, and mathematics, and developing a collection of natural specimens and curiosities into a well known Cabinet of Curiosities or early modern museum. He also worked with Gianlorenzo Bernini on his Fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Navona and labored for many years on the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The book places Kircher's work and his interest in natural magic and mysticism within the context of the Scientific Revolution. Glassie draws connections between Kircher and 17th-century figures such as René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, and Isaac Newton. He also illustrates later influences on Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, Madame Blavatsky, and Marcel Duchamp.Reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, The Daily Beast and a number of other media outlets. Glassie has appeared on the NPR shows All Things Considered and Science Friday as well as on C-SPAN2's BookTV to discuss the biography. A Man of Misconceptions was selected as a New York Times Book Review "Editor's Choice." It was named one of the best science books of 2012 by Jennifer Ouellette, a writer for Scientific American, and included in an Atlantic Wire article "The Books We Loved in 2012."Antonio Maria Abbatini
Antonio Maria Abbatini (26 January 1595, or 1609 or 1610 – ? after 15 March 1679, or 1677) was an Italian composer, active mainly in Rome.Abbatini was born in Città di Castello. He served as maestro di cappella at the Basilica of St. John Lateran from 1626 to 1628; at the cathedral in Orvieto in 1633; and at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome between 1640 and 1646, 1649 to 1657, and 1672 to 1677. He composed a good deal of church music, and published three books of Masses, four of Psalms, various 24-part Antiphons (1630, 1638, 1677), five books of Motets (1635), and a dramatic cantata, Il Pianto di Rodomonte (1633). He also worked with Athanasius Kircher on the Musurgia Universalis.
In addition, he produced three operas: Dal male il bene (Rome, 1654; in collaboration with Marco Marazzoli), which was one of the earliest comic operas, and historically important as it introduced the final ensemble; Ione (Vienna, 1666); and La comica del cielo, also called La Baltasara (Rome, 1668).
Antonio Cesti was among his pupils.Chelys
The chelys (Greek: χέλυς, Latin: testudo), was a stringed musical instrument, the common lyre of the ancient Greeks, which had a convex back of tortoiseshell or of wood shaped like the shell. The word chelys was used in allusion to the oldest lyre of the Greeks, which was said to have been invented by Hermes. According to the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, he came across a tortoise near the threshold of his mother's home and decided to hollow out the shell to make the soundbox of an instrument with seven strings.
The word has been applied arbitrarily since classic times to various stringed instruments, some bowed and some plucked, probably owing to the back being much vaulted. Athanasius Kircher (Musurgia universalis, 486) applied the name of chelys to a kind of viol with eight strings. Numerous representations of the chelys lyre or testudo occur on Greek vases, in which the actual tortoiseshell is depicted. A good illustration is given in Le Antichità di Ercolano (vol. i. p1. 43). Propertius (iv. 6) calls the instrument the lyra testudinea. Joseph Justus Scaliger was probably the first writer to draw attention to the difference between the chelys and the kithara.The acoustics of an authentically reconstructed ancient Greek tortoise-shell lyre, known as chelys, was investigated recently. Modern experimental methods were employed, such as electronic speckle pattern laser interferometry and impulse response, to extract the vibrational behavior of the instrument and its main parts. Additionally, the emitted sound from the instrument was recorded, under controlled conditions, and spectrally analyzed. Major findings include the concentration of the emitted sound between 400 Hz and 800 Hz, with an amplitude modified in a manner consistent with the experimentally measured vibrational characteristics of the instrument’s sound box and bridge. The experimental results validate the historical evidence that chelys was used in Greek antiquity as an accompaniment instrument to the human voice.Chicken hypnotism
A chicken can be hypnotized, or put into a trance, by holding its head down against the ground, and drawing a line along the ground with a stick or a finger, starting at the beak and extending straight outward in front of the chicken. If the chicken is hypnotized in this manner, it will remain immobile for somewhere between 15 seconds and 30 minutes, continuing to stare at the line. Ethologists refer to this state as 'tonic immobility' i.e. a natural state of semi-paralysis that some animals enter when presented with a threat, which is probably a defensive mechanism intended to feign death, albeit rather poorly.The first known written reference for this method came in 1646, in Mirabele Experimentum de Imaginatione Gallinae by Athanasius Kircher in Rome.China Illustrata
China Illustrata is the 1667 published book written by the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) that compiles the 17th century European knowledge on the Chinese Empire and its neighboring countries. The original Latin title was: ”Athanasii Kircheri e Soc. Jesu China monumentis, qua sacris qua profanis, nec non variis Naturae et artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata, auspiciis Leopoldi primi, Roman. Imper. Semper augusti Munificentissimi Mecaenatis“.Christian Kabbalah
The Renaissance saw the birth of Christian Kabbalah (often transliterated as Cabala to distinguish it from Jewish Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah), also spelled Cabbala. Interest grew among some Christian scholars in what they saw to be the mystical aspects of Judaic Kabbalah, which were compatible with Christian theology.Complete bipartite graph
In the mathematical field of graph theory, a complete bipartite graph or biclique is a special kind of bipartite graph where every vertex of the first set is connected to every vertex of the second set.Graph theory itself is typically dated as beginning with Leonhard Euler's 1736 work on the Seven Bridges of Königsberg. However, drawings of complete bipartite graphs were already printed as early as 1669, in connection with an edition of the works of Ramon Llull edited by Athanasius Kircher. Llull himself had made similar drawings of complete graphs three centuries earlier.John Edward Fletcher
John Edward Fletcher (18 January 1940 – 1 June 1992) was a British-Australian scholar best known for his research and publications on Athanasius Kircher as well as several other Germans who had lived in and/or influenced Australia.Magnesia Nova
Magnesia Nova, subtitled A study on the connections between the Hellenic and Japanese cultures, is an album by the Japanese noise musician Merzbow. It come in a tall card wallet with a 24-page booklet, and is limited to 1,000 copies. The titles were inspired by the titles of books by Athanasius Kircher.
Outtakes were included on Red Magnesia Pink in the Merzbox.Microbiology
Microbiology (from Greek μῑκρος, mīkros, "small"; βίος, bios, "life"; and -λογία, -logia) is the study of microorganisms, those being unicellular (single cell), multicellular (cell colony), or acellular (lacking cells). Microbiology encompasses numerous sub-disciplines including virology, parasitology, mycology and bacteriology.
Eukaryotic microorganisms possess membrane-bound cell organelles and include fungi and protists, whereas prokaryotic organisms—all of which are microorganisms—are conventionally classified as lacking membrane-bound organelles and include Bacteria and Archaea. Microbiologists traditionally relied on culture, staining, and microscopy. However, less than 1% of the microorganisms present in common environments can be cultured in isolation using current means. Microbiologists often rely on molecular biology tools such as DNA sequence based identification, for example 16s rRNA gene sequence used for bacteria identification.
Viruses have been variably classified as organisms, as they have been considered either as very simple microorganisms or very complex molecules. Prions, never considered as microorganisms, have been investigated by virologists, however, as the clinical effects traced to them were originally presumed due to chronic viral infections, and virologists took search—discovering "infectious proteins".
The existence of microorganisms was predicted many centuries before they were first observed, for example by the Jains in India and by Marcus Terentius Varro in ancient Rome. The first recorded microscope observation was of the fruiting bodies of moulds, by Robert Hooke in 1666, but the Jesuit priest Athanasius Kircher was likely the first to see microbes, which he mentioned observing in milk and putrid material in 1658. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek is considered a father of microbiology as he observed and experimented with microscopic organisms in 1676, using simple microscopes of his own design. Scientific microbiology developed in the 19th century through the work of Louis Pasteur and in medical microbiology Robert Koch.Mundus Subterraneus (book)
Mundus subterraneus, quo universae denique naturae divitiae is a scientific textbook written by Athanasius Kircher, and published in 1665. The work depicts Earth's geography through textual description, as well as lavish illustrations.Oedipus Aegyptiacus
Oedipus Aegyptiacus is Athanasius Kircher's supreme work of Egyptology.
The three full folio tomes of ornate illustrations and diagrams were published in Rome over the period 1652–54. Kircher cited as his sources Chaldean astrology, Hebrew kabbalah, Greek myth, Pythagorean mathematics, Arabian alchemy and Latin philology.Pestis
Pestis may refer to:
Yersinia pestis, a Gram-negative rod-shaped bacterium species
Pestis (Roman mythology), the daemon/personification of pestilence, plague, illness, sickness and disease
Phthisis, one of the Nosoi or Pestis
Scrutinium Pestis, a 1658 book by Athanasius KircherPigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography
The Luigi Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography is a public and research museum located in Rome, Italy. Established in 1876 by Luigi Pigorini, it is currently directed by Maria Antonietta Fugazzola. One important collection of the Pigorini houses is Neolithic artifacts from Lake Bracciano. Another is the early ethnographic collection of Athanasius Kircher.Stylus fantasticus
The stylus fantasticus (or stylus phantasticus) is a style of early baroque music. The root of this music is organ toccatas and fantasias, particularly derived from those of Claudio Merulo (1533–1604), organist at St Mark's basilica in Venice. A later practitioner in Rome was Girolamo Frescobaldi, and his German student Froberger took the style north with him. There were constant flows of Italian musicians north to Bavaria and Saxony, of German musicians south to Italy (such as Hans Leo Hassler and Heinrich Schütz), and of musicians who had careers in both Austria and Italy (such as Sances and Turini). The author, scientist and inventor, a true baroque polymath, Athanasius Kircher describes the stylus fantasticus in his book, Musurgia Universalis:
"The fantastic style is especially suited to instruments. It is the most free and unrestrained method of composing, it is bound to nothing, neither to any words nor to a melodic subject, it was instituted to display genius and to teach the hidden design of harmony and the ingenious composition of harmonic phrases and fugues."The style is related to improvisation but is characterised by the use of short contrasting episodes and a free form, just like a classical fantasia.
In Austria the style was practised by the famous formidable virtuoso Heinrich Ignaz Biber and the older Johann Heinrich Schmelzer.
In summer the Prince Bishop of Olomouc and his court retired to Kroměříž Castle, where there were lavish musical entertainments. Ballets such as The Fencing School and descriptive pieces such as Battalia or The Peasants go to Church. Kroměříž Castle then was newly built by the Prince Bishop, the original medieval structure having been destroyed by the Swedes towards the end of the Thirty Years' War. Jacob Handl had worked at the old castle between 1579 and 1585. The discontinuity in musical life and musical training due to the Thirty Years' War explains the originality and the folksiness of the stylus fantasticus at Kroměříž. Though Bishop Karl was fanatically interested in music, and is principally known in England as a patron of Biber and Schmelzer, he was the driving force behind the restoration of the economy of Moravia after the destruction of the Thirty Years' War.Wolfgang Leinberer
(Stuttgart, (1635-10-19)October 19, 1635 –
Altötting, (1693-06-22)June 22, 1693)
was a priest in the Society of Jesus.
He was German astronomer, philosopher, mathematician and professor, considered as "the most enthusiastic, even ingenius disciple in Rome of the famous mathematician Father Athanasius Kircher".He taught grammar, humanities, rhetoric, mathematics and philosophy at the University of Ingolstadt.
At the same institution, he was also a master of novices and rector.
He worked as a socius of the Provincial for five years and an Instructor of third-year priests in Altötting, a position which he kept until his death.