KIRCHER, Athanasius

KIRCHER, Athanasius. Geisa near Fulda 2.5.1602 — Rome 27.11.1680. S.J. German Polyhistor and Orientalist, a Pioneer of Coptology, a Precursor of Egyptology, a Sinologist, etc. Son of Johann K., Doctor of Divinity and teacher of Benedictines. Novice of S.J. 1618 in Paderborn, took his first vows 1620. In 1622 fled war to Cologne, 1623 transferred to College of Heiligenstadt, the in Aschaffenburg in court of the Elector-Archbishop of Mainz and at Mainz College. In 1628 ordained priest. Served in Speyer and Würzburg, in 1630 vainly applied to become missionary in China. In 1631 he fled from the Swedes to Mainz and soon to Avignon. From 1635 until his death lived in Rome pursuing many kinds of studies and teaching mathematics at Jesuit College. In addition to Hieroglyphic and Coptic studies, Chinese culture and Semitic epigraphy, he made a “reconstruction” of Noah’s Ark and of the Tower of Babel, studied on topography of Latium, musical theory, astronomy, magnetism, geology, physics and chemistry, etc. His Hieroglyphic interpretations were pure fantasy. He never left Italy. In his book on China he published Grüber’s account of his Tibetan travels and H. Roth’s information on India (Devanāgarī script and the Avatāras of Viṣṇu).

Publications: Ars Magnesia. Würzburg 1631; Primitiae gnomonicae catoptricae. Avignon 1635; Specula Melitensis encyclica. Neapolis 1638; Scrutinium pestis physico-medicum. Graeci 1640; Magnes sive de Arte Magnetica. Roma 1641; Ars magna lucis et umbrae. R. 1646; Musurgia universalis. 1-2. R. 1650; Itinerarium exstaticum. R. 1656; Diatribe de prodigiosis Crucibus. R. 1661; Polygraphia nova. R. 1663; Arithmologia. R. 1665; Historia Eustachio-Mariana. R. 1665; Mundus subterraneus. 1-2. Amsterdam 1665-78; Ars magna sciendi. Amst. 1669; Latium. Amst. 1671; Phonurgia nova. Kempten 1673; some minor works.

Prodromus Coptus sive Aegyptiacus. Roma 1636; Lingua Aegyptiaca restituta. 1-3. R. 1643-44.

Obeliscus Pamphilius. Roma 1650; Oedipus Aegyptiacus. 1-3. Roma 1652-54; Obelisci Aegyptiaci nuper inter Isaei Romani rudere effossi interpretatio hieroglyphica. Roma 1666; Sphinx mystagoga sive diatribe hieroglyphica. Amsterdam 1676.

China monumentis … illustrata. Amsterdam 1667.

Arca Noë. Amsterdam 1673; Turris Babel. Amsterdam 1679.

Sources: J. Godwin, Athanasius Kircher. A Renaissance Man and the Quest for Lost Knowledge. L. 1979 (with picture and bibliography of and on Kircher); *S. Kratzsch, “Die Darstellung der zehn Avatāras Viṣṇus in A.K.’s “China illustrata””, AOF 9, 1982, 133-144; *Wikipedia.

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