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".
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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. Other cultural work[ edit ] Kircher was sent the Voynich Manuscript in by Johannes Marcus Marci in the hope of Kircher being able to decipher it. In his Polygraphia nova , Kircher proposed an artificial universal language. On a visit to southern Italy in , 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 , 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. 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.
Kircher took a notably modern approach to the study of diseases , as early as using a microscope to investigate the blood of plague victims. In his Scrutinium Pestis of , 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 , 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 "catastrophic 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. 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 The device had originally been invented by another Jesuit, Fr. 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 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.
His methods and diagrams are discussed in Ars Magna Sciendi, sive Combinatoria, They include what may be the first recorded drawings of complete bipartite graphs , extending a similar technique used by Llull to visualize complete graphs. Legacy[ edit ] Turris Babel: with typical eclecticism, Kircher illustrates the impossibility of the Tower of Babel having reached the moon, Scholarly influence[ edit ] 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 scientists, physicians and above all his fellow Jesuits in all parts of the globe. 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 —82 collected his books avidly while his eldest son Edward Browne in visited the Jesuit priest resident at Rome.
Cultural legacy[ edit ] Kircher was largely neglected until the late 20th century. One writer attributes his rediscovery to the similarities between his eclectic approach and postmodernism.
UNIVERSITY of GLASGOW
Our copy is outstanding for its finely hand coloured illustrations. Bach and Beethoven Its author lived and worked at the Collegio Romano in Rome for most of his life and his position at the hub of a huge international organisation - the 40, or so strong Society of Jesus - had two very important effects: first of all he received thousands of letters from Jesuits and others in places as far apart and little-known as China and Mexico, giving him access to unparalleled sources of knowledge mostly unknown to the western world. In , for example, more than Jesuits came to Rome from all over the world to elect a new Superior General: every one of them took back one of these sumptuous volumes, which explains the astonishing diaspora of these books even today. The Musurgia Universalis then is hugely famous and has been since it appeared in Its most famous image is probably that of the birds with their songs written out in musical notation beside their pictures. Rameau and Beethoven may well have been influenced by this picture which still appears in musical textbooks used in the United Kingdom for year-olds.
Musurgia Universalis (Kircher, Athanasius)