A Man of Misconceptions: The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change

A Man of Misconceptions The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change The fascinating The New Yorker story of Athanasius Kircher the eccentric scholar inventor who was either a great genius or a crackpot or a bit of both The interests of Athanasius Kircher the legenda

  • Title: A Man of Misconceptions: The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change
  • Author: John Glassie Athanasius Kircher
  • ISBN: 9781594488719
  • Page: 180
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The fascinating The New Yorker story of Athanasius Kircher, the eccentric scholar inventor who was either a great genius or a crackpot or a bit of both.The interests of Athanasius Kircher, the legendary seventeenth century priest scientist, knew no bounds From optics to music to magnetism to medicine, he offered up inventions and theories for everything, and they mThe fascinating The New Yorker story of Athanasius Kircher, the eccentric scholar inventor who was either a great genius or a crackpot or a bit of both.The interests of Athanasius Kircher, the legendary seventeenth century priest scientist, knew no bounds From optics to music to magnetism to medicine, he offered up inventions and theories for everything, and they made him famous across Europe His celebrated museum in Rome featured magic lanterns, speaking statues, the tail of a mermaid, and a brick from the Tower of Babel Holy Roman Emperors were his patrons, popes were his friends, and in his spare time he collaborated with the Baroque master Bernini.But Kircher lived during an era of radical transformation, in which the old approach to knowledge what he called the art of knowing was giving way to the scientific method and modern thought A Man of Misconceptions traces the rise, success, and eventual fall of this fascinating character as he attempted to come to terms with a changing world.With humor and insight, John Glassie returns Kircher to his rightful place as one of history s most unforgettable figures.A Scientific American Best Science Book of 2012An Atlantic Wire Best Book of 2012A New York Times Book Review Editor s Choice

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      Posted by:John Glassie Athanasius Kircher
      Published :2018-012-05T22:30:35+00:00

    About “John Glassie Athanasius Kircher”

    1. John Glassie Athanasius Kircher

      I m the author of a book about a colorful but largely forgotten seventeenth century scholar and priest named Athanasius Kircher It s called A Man of Misconceptions It was first published by Riverhead Books in November of 2012, and came out in paperback in late 2013.I ve been a contributing editor for The New York Times Magazine and have written for many publications including The Believer, The New Republic, The New York Times, The Paris Review Daily, Salon, and Wired I m also the author of a photo book, Bicycles Locked to Poles, which was published by McSweeney s in 2005 I teach at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and have spoken to students or participated on panels at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Columbia University, The New School, The CUNY Graduate Center, and The University of Iowa I grew up near Washington, D.C attended The Johns Hopkins University in Balti, and now live in Brooklyn.

    367 thoughts on “A Man of Misconceptions: The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change”

    1. This book is an easy-to-read, entertaining biography of Athanasius Kircher. Kircher was a 17th-century Jesuit priest who was truly a "Renaissance Man". He studied all different subjects, and wrote a large number of hefty books on a wide range of subjects, including magnetism, music, optics, medicine, geology, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and China. He made several inventions, and was perhaps the first person to use a microscope to study microbes.Kircher had a huge influence on culture and science dur [...]


    2. John Glassie’s biography of seventeenth-century thinker Athanasius Kircher takes us to a time when knowledge, religion, and the occult were closely entwined. It’s hard to imagine the breadth of Kircher’s investigations. He translated Egyptian hieroglyphics, viewed blood cells through an early microscope, theorized that medicines worked through magnetic action, established a famous museum, demonstrated that a sunflower seed could act like a clock…and much, more more. Well, some of this wa [...]


    3. A truly interesting historical character, Kircher is reduced to a cartoon by an author hell-bent on making sure the reader understands Kircher was often wrong. And arrogant. And a con-man. And unequal to the intellects of his time. Etc. EtcThe story of this man practically tells itself, a curious (and yes flawed) man in a time of magnificent change in western culture and history. But here he is portrayed as a glory-seeking Forrest Gump. In the process of focusing on his myriad intellectual and c [...]


    4. I won this book in a giveaway.John Glassie has written a fascinating biography of one of histories forgotten early "natural philosophers." Father Athanasius Kircher was a Jesuit priest more interested in investigating the wonders of Nature than in the pursuit of, what at the time (1602-1680) would have been the normal function of one of his Order: the conversion of heathens to the One True Faith. Kircher had a boundless curiosity in all phenomena and investigated just about everything that came [...]


    5. Glassie uses the story of Athanasius Kircher to tell the story of the seventeenth century, and does it with a lot of verve and (by the standards of the popular history books I've read) sophistication. Kircher was both a prodigious intellectual and a charlatan, by turns a skeptic and an undisciplined speculator, a loyal Jesuit keeping in line following the Galileo Affair and a free thinker. Above all, he was a humanist -- which is to say egoist, and in that fully modern -- careful to leave future [...]


    6. A fun, readable book about one the most brilliant, eclectic, and perhaps fraudulent men ever to grace the Earth. In an age where people can become famous simply for acting the part of a celebrity on a television show, it is nice to know that even in the intellectual maelstrom of the 17th century such people could arise. This judgement of Athenasius Kircher, however, may be a bit unfair. Although Kircher's main purpose in life seems to have to become famous, this German Jesuit, who dabbled in suc [...]


    7. A first rate example of how to write a popular book about a little known person. Well worth the read for what it tells about the milieu out of which contemporary science emerged. Someone needs to do this for Samuel Bochart.


    8. The name Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit priest born in Germany, may not necessarily ring any bells. However, Kircher was an inventor, historian, philosopher, author, and scientist (he coined the term “electromagnetism”) during the 17th century. John Glassie explores this wondrous man in “A Man of Misconceptions: The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change”.“A Man of Misconceptions” instantly hits the reader with a vibrant, colorful, and energetic portrait of Kircher. The pace is stead [...]


    9. John Glassie is no scientist, but that may make his book more potent to those unaccustomed to looking at the world from a behind the lens of a microscope. His subject, Jesuit scholar and polymath Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680), is a titanic of prescientific thinking, a quintessence of the (unintentionally) hilarious limits of any knowledge not based upon independently verifiable data. To paraphrase Glassie, Kircher, by being fantastically wrong on practically every serious problem he attempted t [...]


    10. Athanasius Kircher was a seventeenth-century Jesuit polymath and author of incredible ambition, productivity, and influence. He had detractors in his own day but he’s presently remembered – if remembered at all – for being remarkably wrong about a great many things. He was wrong, for example, about being able to read hieroglyphics, the spontaneous generation of worms and rats, the antiquity and historicity of Hermes Trismegistus, the earth being hollow and filled with rivers of fire, and t [...]


    11. The 17th century may have been the beginning of the Modern era, but that transition was not without considerable struggle. Galileo figured out how the Earth rotated around the sun, and was convicted of heresy and placed under house arrest. "Science" as we understand it was as much speculation as research. Witch burnings were the order of the day. into this conflicted time comes Father Athanasius Kircher of the Company of Jesus, and he soon becomes one of the most published authors of his day. Th [...]


    12. An interesting and readable examination of a fascinatingly flawed man, Athanasius Kircher. This is an easy read, though I found Glassie's overuse of quotes, especially from 20th/21st century biographers, to be annoyingly distracting. This isn't a newspaper article: don't rehash what they said, tell me what you have to say about him. The other tic that bothered me was a constant focus on what Kircher got wrong. Yes, there was much about which he was wrong (or even full of crap), but Glassie tends [...]


    13. A Man of Misconceptions took me to the cozy interconnected world of 17th century of intellectual Europe. But can there even be said to be such a thing as an "intellectual" Europe, when even luminaries such as Rene Descartes pondered the question of whether a sunflower seed could power a clock because of its tendency to turn toward the sun? Athanasius Kircher was one of history's greatest social climbers. He also possessed boundless curiosity, enormous intelligence, exceptional self-regard and as [...]


    14. The book provided wonderful insight into the early modern scientific era, when thinkers were moving from Aristotelian-based approaches to science to more empirical methods. While Kircher perhaps represents a strange and winding back road off the great highway of knowledge, Glassie's biography wonderfully explained the intellectual world in which Kircher worked. And while many of Kircher's ideas were zany (e.g the cat organ and that infamous sunflower seed), his books inspired a generation of gre [...]


    15. One man's laudable quest to know everything, and how, by our lights he got almost everything comically wrong. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this book is how it portrays a world that seems modern - plagiarists, fame-seeking empty vessels, biting satire, even a form of social media - and totally alien. Although perhaps the seemingly alien sports of Jew and prostitute racing find an analog on the scummier shores of reality tv.


    16. Crazy or brilliant? Kook or erudite? From what I've read from this book, the answer to the identity of Athanasius Kircher is "yes". From Germany to France and from Italy to Egypt, this man that I'd never heard of was at the forefront of the 17th century revolution in the acquisition of knowledge about the natural world.


    17. One of the best books I have ever read. It is very easy to read and still gives a detailed description of how "science" was conducted during Kircher's era. The author did a great job telling Kircher's story. A must read.


    18. Kircher was very interesting even though he was a bit of a nutter. I'm still trying to get through his book on volcanoes and now I want to look up some of his other books that I didn't know existed until I read this. A great bio. that is probably unbiased compared to his autobio.


    19. Excellent summary of Kircher and his impact (however small or abstract) on modern thinking. He can be hailed as the last pre-modern scientific mind in which his outrageous theories and claims ushered in a new era of experiment-based evaluations.



    20. This book was one of those random pickups while wandering through the big central library. I'd never heard of Athanasius - wait, why does spellcheck know that name? - Kirchener before this, but the library had a bunch of copies and it looked interesting.This was not the most fascinating non-fiction book I've read. The guy was a strange one, and wrong about a lot of things, but well known in his time and corresponded with a lot of famous people of his age. An interesting read so close to Jonathan [...]


    21. Good story of the life of an eccentric polymath and proto-scientist. If he did not experiment himself he did, through his voluminous writings, cause experiments to be done.


    22. Detailed account of the life of one true renaissance man, but in a very condescending view. None of the amazing plates of Kircher's books are included and Glassie's assessment of Kircher's achievements are distracting, Glassie tries to hard to make Kircher appear as a crazy hoarder if we consider later developments in science and understanding of the universe, a big IF indeed considering when Kircher lived.


    23. A quick and entertaining biography of a Jesuit priest and scholar who was raised and trained just before the 'scientific revolution.' His many texts and 'experiments' covering nearly every scientific field that now exists were always on the verge of insightful while remaining ridiculous and ridiculed and thoroughly adored by laymen and scientists alike throughout seventeeth century Europe. The topic itself isn't riveting--I'd never head of Kircher before this book although apparently his influen [...]


    24. This is a fascinating and enjoyable read. It describes the life, times, and efforts of avJesuit priest named Athanasius Kircher. He lived through the early to middle 17th century, through the many religious wars, including the Thirty Years War that destroyed his German heartland. Kircher mastered many languages and made his career around interpreting hieroglyphs on Egyptian obelisks. He never had a clue what they said, but made up stuff he thought was a greater truth than the facts. He was fasci [...]


    25. This book was a slow-go for me. Let me say at the start, though, that was not the fault of John Glassie. His writing is smooth and he does a competent job of fleshing out Kircher’s life and career.My problem was the subject. I wasn’t far into the book before I decided Kircher was a mix of charlatan and buffoon, as it appears many of his contemporaries saw him—Peiresc, Descartes and Redi among them. And yet he obviously had a remarkable mind and was capable of grasping finite principles whi [...]


    26. Though this book was a fine tour through the strange proto-scientific views of Athanasius Kircher, and occasionally did attempt a justification of those views from our own time (for example, relating his "universal magnetism" to the dominance of electromagnetic forces in our own conception of physics), the book maintains such a critical distance that we can only see, but rarely feel the impact of, the wonderful strangeness of a complete worldview gone wrong. However, there is something besides d [...]


    27. The book would interest readers of 17th century (Renaissance and Baroque) science and learning, as Kircher's writings are read and his experiments and theories evaluated by scientists of his day, similar to peer review of journal articles. A difference would be that Kircher's readers would be conducting their own experiments in physics, chemistry, mathematics, &c. The writings' reception by Descartes, Leibniz, Gassendi, Galileo, and others ties together this biography. In addition to the pub [...]


    28. "Genius" or "Madman"?Athanasius Kircher, a German jesuit and universal genius is described thoroughly in this great book. What I find very interesting is how the author connects all the events at those times, explains what impact Kircher had and how it felt living at that time.What shocked me was the description of the anabaptists cages ("Wiedertäufer Käfige") on the church of St. Lamberti (Lambertikirche) - which are still seen on the church nowadays. Interesting how Kircher used the microsco [...]


    29. 3.5 stars would be fairer. Interesting book about someone I had never heard of. Kircher, Athanasius, 1602-1680. This bio of a prolific writer covers an important time in history when many older 'givens' were being challenged by many. Kircher got a lot of information wrong, at least looking at it from a 21st Century perspective, but was influential on many leaders of government, church and science of his time. He was also ridiculed by many of them for his conclusions. Kircher wrote on many differ [...]


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