See also: Jesuit China missions Kircher had an early interest in China , telling his superior in that he wished to become a missionary to that country. 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. 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". 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.
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Start your review of Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything Write a review Shelves: cultural-history , exam-reading-list , history , intellectual-history , religious-history , renaissance , science Excellent book with an excellent title. It was a good choice by Eco: is there was such a thing as a "Renaissance Man" - man interested in absolutely everything - it was Athanasius Kircher.
He wrote over thirty books during his lifetime, all of which he promoted extensively as often as possible, and he promised a litany Excellent book with an excellent title.
He wrote over thirty books during his lifetime, all of which he promoted extensively as often as possible, and he promised a litany of other books that he just never quite got around to writing.
He wrote on Egyptian history, mysticism, volcanoes, medicine, epistemology, and more. He was heralded by contemporaries as both a magnificent genius and as a crackpot, often for the same things. This volume of essays suggests that this dichotomy arose because Kircher stood on the brink between two worlds: one in which it was possible to "know everything" and one in which knowledge was accumulating at such a rapid rate that specialization was necessary.
Positioned here, Kircher was increasingly called out by experts but still retained an international reputation for his massive breadth of knowledge as well as for the massive web of communication in maintained with fellow Jesuits around the world. He was frequently mocked, but the same people who mocked him continued to buy all of his books and seemed to hang on his every word.
As Paula Findlen notes in her introduction, "At the height of his career, Kircher created a kind of typographical labyrinth that temporarily trapped all the best minds of the mid-seventeenth century inside of his books He belonged to an era that combined rather than divided, that took delight in finding unlikely connections in the service of a grand unified theory of absolutely everything.
Peirsec, who must have been a very perceptive fellow, decided that his pupil would perhaps be the most helpful to the scientific community by functioning as the heart of a global Jesuit network: even if his own skill was limited, his curiosity and communication could help push the field as a whole.
Findlen also emphasizes the importance of Christianity to Kircher. His insistence on learning everything about the world was centered on his belief that the entire world was tied together. This unity was predicated on God: the Christian God, primarily he was a Jesuit, after all , but with a heavy strand of ecumenicism that emphasized the interconnectivity of world religions. He decided to self medicate himself because he figured he knew more than the doctors, presumably and slid immediately into a fever dream in which he was elected pope and transformed the world in accordance with his secret knowledge.
I like to think that this sums him up well. All of this happens in the introduction!
Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything
He investigated volcanoes by having himself lowered into one while it was erupting , hieroglyphics, infectious organisms, magnetism, the relationships between languages, astronomy, and biblical scholarship. He was likely the first scientist to propose the germ theory of disease, and he invented the magic lantern or refined it from previous models. In addition to his formal publications, Kircher corresponded voluminously with learned individuals and religious figures around the world. His father was a teacher and lecturer who had studied religion and philosophy.
Athanasius Kircher : the last man who knew everything
Athanasius Kircher Biography