|1601 or 1602||Athanasius Kircher was born on May 2 in Geissa near Fulda in South Germany. His father, Johann Kircher, took great care of his education and sent him to a Jesuit school.|
|1618||After having recovered from gangrene in a, as it seemed, miraculous way, Kircher decided to join the Jesuits and attended their college in Paderborn. The Thirty-years War broke out in the same year.|
|1620 - 30||The war forced Kircher to leave Paderborn and to complete his studies elsewhere. He worked as teacher at different Jesuit colleges in Germany until he finally, in 1629, was appointed professor of ethics, Greek and oriental languages at the college in Würzburg. He published his first work, a dissertion about magnetism, Ars Magnesia, in the following year.|
|1631||Würzburg was suddenly and unexpectedly attacked by the army of Gustaf II Adolf. Kircher had left the town the day before the attack, due to a vision of the attack that he had some nights before, and thus he escaped, while many of his collegues were killed.|
|1632||He arrived at Avignon, where he soon was granted a professorate, corresponding to his earlier position in Würzburg.|
|1633 - 35||Kircher was appointed to be Imperial court mathematician in Vienna. He decided to travel to Austria via Italy, but on the way from France, the ship on which he travelled was damaged by a storm, and stranded at Civitavecchia, north of Rome. He went on to Rome, and after some discussions it was decided that Kircher should remain in Rome as professor of mathematics, physics and oriental languages at the Roman College.|
|1636 - 38||Kircher followed the Austrian inheritor on a voyage through Italy to Malta. He published his first work about egyptology, Prodromus Coptus in 1636.|
After his return to Rome Kircher pursued his career as author, writing on various subjects like music, optics, magnetism, egyptology, geology, logic, archeology and even such "modern" subjects as microbiology and electricity.
At his death in 1680 he left behind not only about forty printed works, but also a museum, called Kircherianum after its founder. The museum was intact until the end of the nineteenth century, when the collections were moved to different museums in Rome.
|Musurgia Universalis sive Ars Magna Consoni et Dissoni (Rome 1650)||This encyclopedia on music is probably Kirchers most famous work. It deals with music from almost every possible aspect: historical, physical, technical, medical, mythological, mathematical and so on. There are articles on musical instruments from different times and cultures, harmonic science, tuning of instruments, acoustics, instrument making, musical theory, the "music" of birds and other animals, tonal systems from antiquity and onwards etc, etc. It also contains some historical documents, as a reproduction of the music to Pindaros' First Pythian Ode (this was declared to be a "falsification" in the 1930's) and a translation of Abraham ben Ghia Hanassis history of Jewish music. The theory and practice of automatic instruments and of a device that could compose music are treated, and so is Tarantism, a disease that was belived to be caused by the sting of the Apulian tarantula, a big spider.|
|Phonurgia Nova (Kempten 1673)||A book about acoustics. In this book Kircher treated the problems of amplifying and controlling sounds and how to construct and build rooms with good acoustic properties. He showed how many such problems could be solved by the use of two methods, anaclasis, reflexion, and anacampsis, refraction. Reflection is still in use, while "refraction", i.e. the use of tubes and funnels, has been outdated by modern amplifiers. The book also deals with the design of echo chambers and different kinds of "funnel-amplifiers" for various purposes, how to use underwater bell-bouys as a substitute for lighthouses and how to measure the speed of sound . It contains a famous description of a puppet that dances only when certain tones are played on an instrument.|
|Oedipus Aegyptiacus (Rome 1652 - 1654)||Kircher seems to have regarded Oedipus Aegyptiacus as his most important work. It is a work on egyptology in several volumes, in which Kircher declared that he had found a method to interprete hieroglyphic inscriptions. Unfortunately the method soon was found to be incorrect. His basic theory, that the Coptic language is a descendant of Ancient Egyptian, was correct, though, and became of great importance to later, more successful, egyptologists.|
|Magnes sive De Arte Magnetica (First printed in Rome in 1641)||In this work Kircher put forward a theory concerning the fundamental causes of motion and natural forces. According to this theory, all motions in nature, as well as all natural forces, can be described in terms of attraction and repulsion. As he thought that magnetism was the most obvious example of this phenomenon, he used the term "magnetism" to describe it. Thus he discussed the "magnetic properties" of things that are usually regarded as having no magnetic properties at all, like water, stones, air, plants etc, and this has caused persistent misunderstandings of the theory. Magnes contains pictures and descriptions of many devices working according to the principle of attraction and repulsion, and in one section that deals with "the magnetism of the four elements" there is a treatise on electricity and electrical experiments, called Elektromagnetismos.|
|Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (Rome 1646, Amsterdam 1671)||
Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae contains all there was to know about ligth and optics in the middle of the seventeenth century. It begins with a survey of the properties of light (according to Kircher) and continues with the design, building and use of astronomical, and sometimes astrological, instruments. One section deals with the design of various types of sundials (in some cases "moondials") for different purposes, some highly advanced and some designed for use in different parts of the world. Much of the book is devoted to astronomy in practice and in theory, and it also supplies the beginner astronomer with the necessary knowledge of mathemathics. Another subject in the book is how to grind and polish various kinds of lenses and mirrors.
The last of the ten books of Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae treats the "natural magic of mirrors and lenses", i. e. optical toys and other devices, such as "magical" parabolic mirrors that could project pictures of angels, saints and even of Christ in suitable places, an everchanging picture, a stroboscope or "star-wheel", a giant focusing mirror and a "high-power" parabolic floodlight. In a separate treatise, Cryptologia Nova, he describes how to build and to use projecting devices.
There are also some really weird designs in the book, e.g. a tiny replica of the Memnon sculptures that sings when air, heated by the sun in a specially designed vessel, expands through an organ pipe, hidden in the throat of the sculpture, and "Flying Dragons", i. e. illuminated boxkites decorated with "prodigous images".