Born, Ignatius

, Baron, an eminent mineralogist, was born of a noble family at Carlsburg, in Transylvania, Dec. 26, 1742. He came early in life to Vienna, and studied under the Jesuits, who, perceiving his abilities, prevailed on him to enter into their society, but he remained a member only about a year and a half. He then went to Prague, where, as it is the custom in Germany, he studied law, and having completed his course, made a tour through a part of Germany, Holland, the Netherlands, and France, and returning to Prague, he engaged in the studies of natural history, mining, and their connected branches, and in, 1770, he was received into the department of the mines and mint at Prague. The same year he visited the principal mines of Hungary and Transylvania, and during this tour kept up a correspondence with the celebrated Ferber, who, in 1774, published his letters. It was in this town, also that he so nearly lost his life, and where he was struck with the disease which embittered the rest of his days. It appears from his eighteenth letter to Mr. Ferber that, when at Felso-Banya, he descended into a mine, where fire was used to detach the ore, to observe the efficacy of this means, but too soon after the fire had been extinguished, and while the mine was full of arsenical vapours raised by the heat. How greatly he suffered in his health by this accident appears from his letter, in which he complained that he could hardly bear the motion of his carriage. After this he was appointed at Prague counsellor of the mines. In 1771, he published a small work of the Jesuit Poda, on the machinery used about mines, and the next year his “Lithophylacium Borneanum,” a catalogue of that collection of fossils, which he afterward disposed of to the lion. Mr. Greville. This work drew on him the attention of mineralogists, and brought him into correspondence with the first men in that study. He was now made a member of the royal societies of Stockholm, Sienna, and Padua; and in 1774, the same honour was conferred on him by the royal society of London.

During his residence in Bohemia, his active disposition induced him to seek for opportunities of extending knowledge, and of being useful to the world. He took a part in the work, entitled “Portraits of the learned men and artists of Bohemia and Moravia.” He was likewise concerned in the “Literary transactions, or Acta Litteraria, of Bohemia and Moravia,” and the editor of the latter pubr | licly acknowledges in the preface, how much Bohemian literature is indebted to him. Prague and Vienna were both without a public cabinet for the use of the students: it was at his instigation that government was induced tq form one, which he assisted by his contributions and his labours. In 1775, he laid the foundation of a literary society, which published several volumes under the title of “Memoirs of a private Society in Bohemia.” His fame reaching the empress Mary Theresa, in 1776, she called him to Vienna to arrange and describe the Imperial collection, and about two years after, he published the splendid work containing the Conchology: in the execution of which he had some assistance. The empress defrayed the expences for a certain number of copies. On the death of this patron the work was discontinued, her successor, the femperor Joseph, not favouring the undertaking. He had likewise the honour of instructing the arch-duchess Maria Anna in natural history, who was partial to this entertaining study; and he formed and arranged for her a neat museum. In 1779, he was raised to the office of actual counsellor of the court-chamber, in the department of the tnines and mint. This office detained him constantly in Vienna, and engaged the chief part of his time.

The consequences of his misfortune at Felso-Banya began now to be felt in the severest manner; he was attacked with the most excruciating cholics, which often threatened a speedy termination of his life and miseries. In this depth of torment, he had recourse to opium, and a large portion of this being placed by his side, which he was ordered only to take in small doses, on one occasion, through the intensity of his pain, he swallowed the whole, which brought on a lethargy, of four and twenty hours; but when he awoke he was free of his pains. The disorder now attacked his legs and feet, particularly his right leg, and in this he was lame for the rest of his life, and sometimes the lameness was accompanied by pain. But his feet by degrees withered, and he was obliged to sit, or lie, or lean upon a sopha; though sometimes he was so well as to be able to sit upon a stool, but not to move from one room to the other without assistance.

His free and active genius led him to interest himself in all the occurrences of the times, and to take an active part in all the institutions and plans which professed to enlighten and reform mankind. With these benevolent | intentions he formed connexions with the free-masons, whose views in this part of the world occasioned the laws and regulations made against masonry by the emperor Joseph. Under Theresa, this order was obliged to keep itself very secret in Austria; but Joseph, on his coming to the throne, tolerated it, and the baron founded in the Austrian metropolis, a lodge called the “True Concord,” a society of learned men, whose lodge was a place of rendezvous for the literati of the capital. The obstacles these gentlemen found, to the progress of science and useful knowledge, had the tendency to draw their attention to political subjects; and subjects were really discussed here which the church had forbidden to be spoken of, and to which the government was equally averse. At their meetings, dissertations on some subject of history, ethics, or moral philosophy, were read by the members; and commonly something on the history of ancient and modern mysteries and secret societies. These were afterward published in the Diary for Free-masons, for the use of the initiated, and not for public sale. In the winter they met occasionally, and held more public discourses, to which the members of the other lodges were allowed access. Aa most of the learned of Vienna belonged to this lodge, it was very natural to suppose, that many of the dissertations read here, were not quite within the limits of the original plan of the society. It was these dissertations which gave rise to another periodical work, which was continued for some time by the baron, and his brother masons. He was, likewise active in extirpating what he reckoned superstitions of various kinds, which had crept into the other lodges, and equally zealous in giving to these societies such an organization, as might render them useful to the public.

The baron, and many others of his lodge, belonged to the society of the illuminated. This, says his biographer, was no dishonour to him: the views of this order, at least at first, seem to have been commendable; they were the improvement of mankind, not the destruction of society. Such institutions are only useful or dangerous, and to be approved of or condemned, according to the state of society; and this was before the French revolution, and in a country less enlightened than almost any other part of Germany. But this was before the French revolution as a cause is before its effect, and there can be no doubt that | much of the misery inflicted on Europe is to be traced to these societies. So zealous, however, was the baron in favour of the illuminati, that when the elector of Bavaria ordered all those in his service to quit this order, he was so displeased that he returned the academy of Munich the diploma they had sent him on their receiving him among them, publicly avowed his attachment to the order, and thought it proper to break off all further connexion with Bavaria, as a member of its literary society. The freemasons did not lung retain the patronage of their sovereign: the emperor Joseph soon became jealous of their influence, and put them under such restrictions, and clogged them with such incumbrances, as to amount almost to a prohibition; and the society found it necessary to dissolve.

What raised the baron more justly high in the public opinion, was his knowledge of mineralogy, and his successful experiments in metallurgy, and principally in the progress of amalgamation. The use of quick-silver in extracting the noble metals from their ores, was not a discovery of the baron’s, nor of the century in which he lived; yet he extended so far its application in metallurgy as to form a brilliant epoch in this most important art. After he had at great expence made many private experiments, and was convinced of the utility of his method, he laid before the emperor an account of his discovery, who gave orders that a decisive experiment on a large quantity of ore should be made at Schemnitz, in Hungary, in the presence of Charpentier from Saxony, Ferber from Russia, Elhujar from Spain, Poda, and other celebrated chemists, which met with universal approbation, and established the utility of his discovery. In 1786, Born published, at the desire of the emperor, his treatise on Amalgamation; and in the following year, a farther account of it was published by his friend Ferber. As a considerable saving in wood, time, and labour, attended his process, the emperor gave orders that it should be employed in the Hungarian mines; and as a recompence to the inventor, a third of the sum that should be saved by adopting his method was granted to him for ten years, and for ten years more the interest of that sum. Such, however, was the hospitality of Born, and his readiness to admit and entertain all travellers, and to patronize distressed talents of every kind, that his expences exceeded his income, and he was at last reduced to | a state of insolvency. Amidst all his bodily infirmities and pecuniary embarrassments, and notwithstanding the variety of his official avocations, he was indefatigable in his literary pursuits; and in 1790, he published in two volumes, a “Catalogue methodique raisonné,” of Miss Raab’s collection of fossils, which is regarded as a classical work on that subject. He employed himself also in bleaching wax by a new chemical process, and in boiling salt with half the wood commonly used for that purpose. Whilst he was engaged in writing the “Fasti Leopoldini,” or a history of the reign of Leopold II. in classical Latin, and a work on Mineralogy, his disease rapidly advanced, and being attended with violent spasms, terminated his life on the 28th of August, 1791. His treatise on Amalgamation was translated into English, and published by R. E. Raspe, Lond. 1791, 4to, and his travels through the Bannat of Temeswar, &c. were published in 1787. 1


Townson’s Travels in Hungary, 1797. 4to.