The World is Bound With Secret Knots
August 7, 2005 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Athanasius Kircher was the 17th century's Jesuit version of the übergeek. His scholarly attentions were drawn to egyptology, astronomy, magnetism, languages, optics, music, geology, mathematics and many many other pursuits. The "dude of wonders" invented novel machines such as the mathematical organ and magnetic clock, established one of the first museums, published about 40 academic works (with beautiful accompanying illustrations) and was globally revered as one of his time's greatest intellectuals. He is also the main link in the Voynich manuscript mystery. [MI]
posted by peacay (12 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Although Kircher was a founding protagonist for many areas of academic study, some of his conclusions such as his heiroglyphs interpretation, turned out to be erroneous. He was a product of a religious and somewhat mysterious esoteric science background at a time when secular rationalism was on the rise. Descartes ultimately regarded him as "more quacksalver than savant". His story is nevertheless compelling and he should probably be canonized as the patron saint for geeks everywhere.

Link Dump:
-Image gallery (I couldn't get to see anything even after installing requisite plugin [?]ymmv)
-Hoc Nouum Inuentum Linguarum Omnium Advnam Reductarum 1660 scanned complete online - from the International Correspondence Research Project (description of what's going on)
-Jesuits and the Sciences
-Sunflower Timepiece
-Baroque Encyclopedia
-The Angel and the Compass: Geographical Project (essay)
-On Kircher's Works (noting among other things that his preliminary work laid the groundwork for interpreting the Rosetta Stone)
-Wikipedia (good article)
-Links with a Geoscience bias.
-misteraitch's Giornale Nuovo Kircher entries (which I only just found)

Kircher's works seem to be all over the place so it was a bit difficult collecting relevant links - I was particularly trying to find as many of the illustrations as possible (and I discarded many many more links for various reasons). If you speak German, Italian, French and Swedish you will find much more to savour online about this astounding man.
[All this comes about because of a picture I saw at the impressive Early Visual Media site. ]
posted by peacay at 11:26 AM on August 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

Excellent post peacay! (...although, I don't know whether to thank you or damn you - teh internets are eating into thesis writing time)

I've always found the Jesuits fascinating; both their history and their more (relatively) recent forays into science and reason. I wonder, though, whether without religion (the financial support and the structure for educating youths) if the state of the natural science would be further advanced or less...

Oh, a lot of the links are broken for me.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:45 AM on August 7, 2005

Anyone in LA with an interest in Kircher should visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which has an extensive exhibit.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:57 AM on August 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

PurplePorpoise, you mean links from the sites don't you? I've just tested everything I posted again - they all work. But yeah, most stuff seems to be a few years old and their linkrolls have a fair few dead ends. (and mr_roboto - that's the first link.
posted by peacay at 12:10 PM on August 7, 2005

nice one nelson
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:27 PM on August 7, 2005

posted by Goblindegook at 5:08 PM on August 7, 2005

Actually, that image gallery is wonderful - after installing the plugin it requires a restart.
posted by peacay at 5:50 PM on August 7, 2005

Are you guys talking about that one Punk'd guy?
posted by BaxterG4 at 6:02 PM on August 7, 2005

Thank God I'm not the only one who initially read Ashton Kutcher.... for a second I thought it might just be me and it would be time to end my life.

I guess I live another day.
posted by herting at 7:28 PM on August 7, 2005

Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae is an astonishing thing: I read the huge folio volume as part of my doctoral research. And Kircher reminds us that the Jesuits were at the forefront of the scientific revolution, although they might not have thought it at the time.
posted by holgate at 12:55 AM on August 8, 2005

BBC 4 are showing a documentary about the Voynich manuscript tonight.
posted by PurpleJack at 6:22 AM on August 10, 2005

Thanks for that PurpleJack. I couldn't find any listings for a webcast (?). *sigh* Such is the lot of the antipodes.
posted by peacay at 6:38 AM on August 10, 2005

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