Albertus Magnus

, called also Albertus Teutonicus, Frater Albertus de Colonia, Albertus Ratisbonensis, and Albertus Grotus, of the family of the counts of Bollstrcdt, was born, according to some, in 1193, and according to others, in 1205, at Lavingen in Suabia. It has been supposed that the epithet of Great, which was certainly conferred upon him by his contemporaries, in whose eyes he appeared a prodigy of learning and genius, was the family name Grsot, but none of the counts of Bollstcedt ever bore such a name. He received his early education at Pavia, where he surpassed all his schoolfellows, and that every circumstance belonging to him might have an air of miracle, it is said that he owed his rapid progress to a vision in which the holy Virgin appeared to him, and promised that he should be one of the greatest luminaries of the church. By the advice of one of his masters, the celebrated dominican Jordanus, he resolved to enter into that order in 1221. After having for some time taught the scholars of the society, he went to Paris, and gave lectures on Aristotle with great applause. As the Aristotelian philosophy had been just before forbidden by a papal bull, some of the biographers of Albertus have questioned his lecturing on the subject at Paris; but the fact is recorded by all the ancient writers on his history, and it is even probable that he was the means of having the bull rescinded | as he was permitted publicly to comment on Aristotle’s physics. In 1254, his reputation was such among the Dominicans, that he was raised to the dignity of provincial in Germany. In this character he took up his residence at Cologn, a city at that time preferable to most others for a man so addicted to study, and for which he entertained so strong a predilection, that neither the invitation of pope Alexander IV. to come to Rome, nor his promotion to the bishopric of Ratisbon, in 1260, were inducements sufficient to draw him from Cologn for any considerable time. It was at Cologn probably, that he is said to have constructed an automaton, capable of moving and speaking, which his disciple, the celebrated Thomas Aquinas, broke in pieces, from a notion that it was an agent of the devil. This city is likewise said to have been the site of another of his miracles, that of raising flowers in winter to please William, count of Holland. Such tricks, or such reports of his ingenuity, procured him the reputation of a magician, in an age in which he probably had attained only a superior knowledge of mechanics. What he really did, or how far he was indebted to the arts of deception, in these and other performances, it is difficult to determine; but we know that the most common tricks, which now would only make a company of illiterate villagers stare, were then sufficient to astonish a whole nation.

In 1274, after he had preached the crusades in Germany and Bohemia, by order of the pope, he assisted at a general council held at Lyons, and returned thence to his favourite residence at Cologn, where he died in 1280, leaving a greater number of works than any philosopher before his time had ever written. Peter Jammi, a dominican, collected as many as he could procure, and published them in 1651, Lyons, 21 vols. fol. We have nowhere a complete catalogue of his works. The largest is in the first volume of the “Scriptores ordinis Priedicatorum,” by Quetif and Echard, and extends to twelve folio pages. Many pieces which have been erroneously attributed to him, have no doubt swelled this catalogue, but when these are deducted, enough remains to prove the vast fertility or his pen. In the greater part of his works he is merely a commentator on Aristotle, and a compiler from the Arabian writers, yet he every where introduces original discussions and observations, some of which may yet be thought judicious. He treats on philosophy in all its branches, and | although he does not erect a system of his own, a very complete body of the Aristotelian doctrines maybe found in his writings, which of late have been studied and analysed by Brucker, in his “History of Philosophy;” by Buhle in his “Lehrbuch der Gesch. der Philosophic,” vol. V.; and especially by Tiedman, who gives a very luminous and complete analysis of Albert’s system, in his “History of Speculative Philosophy,” vol. V. Albert was a very bad Greek scholar, and read Aristotle, &c. only in the Latin translations, but he was better acquainted with the Arabian writers and rabbis. In divinity, Peter Lombard was his guide and model. His wish was to reconcile the Nominalists with the Realists, but he had not the good fortune to please either. His treatises on speculative science are written in the abstract and subtle manner of the age, but those on natural subjects contain some gems, which would perhaps, even in the present age, repay the trouble of searching for them. It is remarked by Brucker, that the second age of the scholastic philosophy, in which Aristotelian metaphysics, obscured by passing through the Arabian channel, were applied with wonderful subtlety to the elucidation of Christian doctrine, began with Albert and ended with Durand. 1


Gen. Dict. —Bayle. Biographic Universelle. —Moreri. —Brucker. The most valuable references are. in —Saxii Onomasticon.