Kircher, Athanasius

, a philosopher and mathematician of considerable learning, was born at Fulde, in Germany, 1601. He entered into the society of Jesuits 1618; and after going through the regular course of studies, during which his talents and industry were equally conspicuous, he taught philosophy, mathematics, the Hebrew and Syriac languages, in the university of Wirtzburg, in Franconia. The war which Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden made in Germany, disturbing his repose here, he retired into France, and settled in the Jesuits college at Avignon, where he was in 1635. He was afterwards called to Rome to teach mathematics in the Roman college; which he did six years. He spent the remainder of his life in that city; and for some time professed the Hebrew language. He died in 1680, after having published no less than twenty-two volumes in folio, eleven in quarto, and three in octavo, in all which, however, he discovers too much of that species of learning which is of little use. He was always credulous, inaccurate, and careless of what he asserted. Some reckon as his principal work, his “Oedipus Ægyptiacus: hoc est, universalis hieroglyphicae veterum doctrinse temporum injuria abolitae, instauratio. Romas, 1652, &c.” in 4 vols. folio. Kircher was more than ordinarily addicted to the study of hieroglyphical characters; and could always find a plausible, if not a true meaning for thm. As his rage for hieroglyphics was justly esteemed ridiculous, some young scholars resolved to divert themselves a little at his expence. With this view they engraved some unmeaning fantastic characters, or figures, upon a shapeless piece of stone, and had it buried in a place which was shortly to be dug up. It was then carried to Kircher, as a most singular curiosity; and he, enraptured at the discovery, applied himself instantly to explain the hieroglyphic, and made it, at length, in his opinion, very intelligible. Among Kircher’s other works are, “Praelusiones Magnetic,1654, fol. “Primitice Gnomonicae Catopticae,” 4to “Ars magna lucis et umbrae,” Romae, 1646, fol. “Musurgia Universalis,1650, 2 vols. folio. Dr. Burney says this, which treats of music, is a large book but a much larger might be composed in pointing out its errors and absurdities. For what is useful in it he was obliged to father Mersenne, in his “Harmonic Universelle.” “Obeliscus Pamphilius,1650, fol. “Itinerarium extaticum,” 4to; “Obeliscus Ægyptianus,” fol.; “Mundus | subterraneus,” 1678, 2 vols. fol. “China illustrata,1667, fol. translated into French by F. S. d’Alquie, 1670, fol. “Turris Babel,” fol. “Area Noe,” fol. “Latium,1671, fol. a valuable work; “Phonurgia nova,” 16 73, fol.; “Ars sciendi combinatorial,1669, fol.; “Polygraphia,1663, fol. &c. 1


Niceron, vol. XXVII. —Moreri. —Dict. Hist. Burney’s Hist, of Music.