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By Daniel Stolzenberg

A modern of Descartes and Newton, Athanasius Kircher, S. J. (1601/2–80), used to be certainly one of Europe’s such a lot artistic and flexible students within the baroque period. He released greater than thirty works in fields as diversified as astronomy, magnetism, cryptology, numerology, geology, and tune. yet Kircher is such a lot famous—or infamous—for his quixotic try and decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs and reconstruct the traditional traditions they encoded. In 1655, after greater than twenty years of toil, Kircher released his method to the hieroglyphs, Oedipus Aegyptiacus, a piece that has been referred to as “one of the main realized monstrosities of all times.” right here Daniel Stolzenberg offers a brand new interpretation of Kircher’s hieroglyphic experiences, putting them within the context of seventeenth-century scholarship on paganism and Oriental languages.
Situating Kircher within the social global of baroque Rome, with its students, artists, buyers, and censors, Stolzenberg indicates how Kircher’s examine of historical paganism trusted the flow of texts, artifacts, and folks among Christian and Islamic civilizations. besides different individuals within the upward thrust of Oriental stories, Kircher aimed to revolutionize the learn of the earlier via studying close to jap languages and improving historical manuscripts hidden away within the mythical libraries of Cairo and Damascus. The fabulous flaws of his scholarship have fostered a picture of Kircher as an eccentric anachronism, a throwback to the Renaissance airtight culture. Stolzenberg argues in contrast view, exhibiting how Kircher embodied crucial tensions of a pivotal part in eu highbrow heritage, while pre-Enlightenment students pioneered smooth empirical tools of learning the prior whereas nonetheless operating inside of conventional frameworks, similar to biblical background and ideology approximately magic and esoteric wisdom.

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