Athanasius Kircher  

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"In 1650, Athanasius Kircher, in his Musurgia Universalis (I, 14-15), is interested in the sounds uttered by the various animals." --From the Tree to the Labyrinth — Umberto Eco

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Athanasius Kircher, S.J. (sometimes erroneously spelled Kirchner; 2 May 1602 – 28 November 1680) was a German 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 honoured 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."

In Phonurgia Nova (1673) Kircher considered the possibilities of transmitting music to remote places.


Kircher's principal works, in chronological order, are:

Year Title Link
1631 Ars Magnesia
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
1652–1655 Oedipus Aegyptiacus
1654 Magnes sive (third, expanded edition)
1656 Itinerarium extaticum s. opificium coeleste
1657 Iter extaticum 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, seu artificium linguarium quo cum omnibus mundi populis poterit quis respondere
1664–1678 Mundus subterraneus, quo universae denique naturae divitiae Tomus II , 1678
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 and 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
1669 Principis Cristiani archetypon politicum 1672 edition
1669 Latium 1671 edition
1669 Ars magna sciendi sive combinatorica 1669 edition
1673 Phonurgia nova, sive conjugium mechanico-physicum artis & natvrae paranympha phonosophia concinnatum 1763 edition
1675 Arca Noe
1676 Sphinx mystagoga: sive Diatribe hieroglyphica, qua Mumiae, ex Memphiticis Pyramidum Adytis Erutae… 1676 edition
1676 Obelisci Aegyptiaci
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

See also

Linking in as of 2022

1600s (decade), 5th Dalai Lama, A Cruel Angel's Thesis, A Human Work, A Man of Misconceptions, Abacus Harmonicus, Aeolian harp, Aeolian sound, Agostino Scilla, An embassy from the East-India Company, Ancient Egypt in the Western imagination, Ancient Egyptian literature, Andreas Kneller, Antoine de Cousu, Antonio Maria Abbatini, Apparent death, Arca Musarithmica, Arca Noë, Arithmologia, Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae, Ars Magnesia, Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Astrochemistry, Atargatis, Athanasius (given name), Atlantis, Atlantis in popular culture, Audiovisualogy, Austria–Denmark relations, Automaton, Avignon University, Barometer, Beaver, Bembine Tablet, Biblical terminology for race, Birdsong in music, Burning glass, Cabinet of curiosities, Camera obscura, Cancer (constellation), Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, Castanets, Cat organ, Catholic Church and health care, Catholic missions, Cave Beck, Cent (music), Characteristica universalis, Chelys, Chicken hypnotism, China Illustrata, China–Germany relations, Chinese as a foreign language, Chinese pyramids, Chinese sun and moon mirrors, Chinoiserie, Christiaan Huygens, Christian culture, Christian film industry, Christian Franz Paullini, Christian Hebraist, Christian Kabbalah, Christian theosophy, Christian views on magic, Christianity and science, Christianity in China, Classical guitar making, Codex Vaticanus B, Complete bipartite graph, Cuckoo clock, Dancing plague of 1518, Decan, Decipherment of ancient Egyptian scripts, Diatribe de Progidiosis Crucibus, Diplomatic approaches between the courts of John III Sobieski and Emperor Kangxi, Doctrine of the affections, Ear trumpet, Early modern period, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Egyptian influence in popular culture, Egyptology, Emblem book, Étienne-Gaspard Robert, Eugenio Lo Sardo, Fabrizio Clerici, Fata Morgana (mirage), Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, Filippo Bonanni, Francesco Barberini (1597–1679), Francesco Eschinardi, Francesco Ficoroni, Francesco Fontana, Francis Line, Franz Reinzer, Gaspar Schott, Geisa, Genesis flood narrative, Georg Baresch, George Seton, 4th Earl of Winton, Germ theory of disease, Giambattista della Porta, Giovanni Battista Riccioli, Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger, Giuseppe Francesco Borri, Glass harmonica, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Gregorio Allegri, Gymnasium Theodorianum, Hamlet's Mill, Haun Saussy, Heilbad Heiligenstadt, Heinrich Roth, Hermetic Qabalah, Historia Eustachio Mariana, History of alternative medicine, History of electromagnetic theory, History of geophysics, History of Germany, History of paleontology, History of spectroscopy, History of the Great Wall of China, Hollow Earth, Horapollo, Ibn Kabar, Ibn Wahshiyya, Imaginary voyage, Index of ancient Egypt–related articles, Interlingual machine translation, Itinerarium exstaticum, Jacobus Sinapius, James Bruce, Jan Marek Marci, Jean-François Champollion, Jean-Jacques Manget, Jesuit China missions, Jesuit College of Ingolstadt, Johann Caspar Kerll, Johann Grueber, Johann Jakob Froberger, Johann Paul Schor, Johann Speth, Johann Zahn, Johannes Hevelius, John Birchensha, John Edward Fletcher, John Evelyn, John Greaves, John Webster (minister), Jophiel, Joscelyn Godwin, Joshua Foer, Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz, Juana Inés de la Cruz, Kaleidoscope, Key of Solomon, Kim Peek, Kircher, Kircher (crater), Kircherian Museum, Kirchner, Latium, Latium (1669), Lelio Colista, Letters on Sunspots, Library of Sir Thomas Browne, Lignum nephriticum, Lingua Aegyptiaca Restituta, List of alumni of Jesuit educational institutions, List of archaeologists, List of Catholic clergy scientists, List of craters on the Moon: G–K, List of cryptographers, List of Dutch inventions and innovations, List of Egyptologists, List of encyclopedias by date, List of Fairfield University buildings, List of general music articles in Rees's Cyclopaedia, List of German scientists, List of Jesuits, List of microbiologists, List of museums from the 18th century, List of music biographies in Rees's Cyclopaedia, List of music theorists, List of people considered father or mother of a scientific field, List of people on the postage stamps of Malta, List of philosophers (I–Q), List of polyglots, Maastricht University Special Collections, Magic lantern, Magic square, Magnes sive de Arte Magnetica, Mario Bettinus, Mars in fiction, Martino Martini, May 2, Megaphone, Melchior Inchofer, Mermaid, Mesomedes, Michał Boym, Microbiology, Moloch, Monkeys in Chinese culture, Mount Ararat, Multiset, Mundus Subterraneus (book), Musaeum Clausum, Museo Nazionale Romano, Museum of Jurassic Technology, Music therapy, Musurgia Universalis, Names of God, Natural magic, New Latin, Nicolas Steno, Nile, Noah's Ark, November 28, Númenor, Obeliscus Pamphilius, Oedipus Aegyptiacus, Oedipus Judaicus, Organum (album), Organum Mathematicum, Orgelbüchlein, Orpharion, Otto von Guericke, Overhead projector, Palace of the Soviets, Paleoart, Pantometrum Kircherianum, Paper marbling, Pardes Rimonim, Patrick van Deurzen, Paul Friedländer (philologist), Phantasmagoria, Phantom island, Philosophy of language, Phonurgia Nova, Piganino, Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography, Polygraph (author), Polygraphia Nova, Pontifical Gregorian University, Pope Urban VIII, Porta Alchemica, Pratap Malla, Precursors of film, Prodromus Coptus, Projector, Protogaea, Quirinus Kuhlmann, Ramon Llull, Rangaku, Role of Christianity in civilization, Roman Catholic Diocese of Tropea, Roman College, Romanization of Chinese, Rosetta Stone, Samuel Wesley (poet), Sauvaire Intermet, Science and the Catholic Church, Science fiction, Scientific Revolution, Scrutinium Physico-Medicum, Sebastian Knüpfer, Seismology, Shem HaMephorash, Sheng-Ching Chang, Sigillum Dei, Sino-Babylonianism, Siren (mythology), Solar phenomena, South San Francisco, California, Specula Melitensis Encyclica, Staveless runes, Stylus fantasticus, Sumxu, Symphony No. 5, "Kunstkammer", Tabula scalata, Teofil Ociepka, Teofilo Macchetti, The Club Dumas, The Island of the Day Before, Theatre of the World, Theodorus Moretus, Theorbo, Thomas Henshaw (alchemist), Thomas Leinkauf, Thomas Manning (sinologist), Thomas Obicini, Thomas the Apostle, Timaeus (dialogue), Timeline of science fiction, Tower of Babel, Tree of life (Kabbalah), Turris Babel, Typhon, Veil of Isis, Venus in fiction, Volcano, Volcanology, Voynich manuscript, Water cycle, William Drummond of Logiealmond, Winged cat, Witches' Sabbath (The Great He-Goat), Wolfgang Leinberer, Xi'an Stele, Xu Guangqi, Yahshuah

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