Catalogue

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A man of misconceptions : the life of an eccentric in an age of change /
John Glassie.
imprint
New York : Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2012, c2012
description
xvi, 333 p. : ill. ; 22 cm
ISBN
1594488711 (hbk.), 9781594488719 (hbk.)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2012, c2012
isbn
1594488711 (hbk.)
9781594488719 (hbk.)
contents note
Apologetic Forerunner to This Kircherian Study -- Part One -- Incapable of Resisting the Force -- Inevitable Obstacles -- A Source of Great Fear -- Scenic Proceedings -- Chief Inciter of Action -- Beautiful Reports -- Part Two -- Secret Exotic Matters -- Habitation of Hell -- The Magnet -- An Innumerable Multitude of Catoptric Cats -- Four Rivers -- Egyptian Oedipus -- The Admiration of the Ignorant -- Little Worms -- Philosophical Transactions -- Underground World -- A Dream -- Everything -- Part Three -- Not As It Was -- Immune and Exempt -- Mentorella -- Closest of All to the Truth -- The Strangest Development.
catalogue key
8695623
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 317-324) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2012-08-20:
Journalist Glassie (Bicycles Locked to Poles) tackles the life of the eccentric 17th-century Jesuit priest and polymath Athanasius Kircher who, Glassie says, "never ruined a good story with facts." In the course of his life, Kircher opined, almost invariably incorrectly, about the nature of light, magnetism, and the geography of the earth, which he said was characterized by underground fires and great waters (a notion that may have inspired Jules Verne's A Journey to the Center of the Earth). Glassie has a genuine affection for Kircher despite the latter's laughably bizarre theories and self-aggrandizing egotism. In fact, the author's affection humanizes Kircher, making him oddly credible: "Kircher wanted the world to be magical, and yet to make sense," he writes. Historical background and anecdotes involving Newton, Liebniz, Queen Christina of Sweden, and other 17th-century figures helps round out the narrative. Glassie's fascination with the misguided polymath Kircher translates to an entertaining sidebar to the linear march-of-science narratives that ordinarily depicts the scientific revolution. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Like his subject, Athanasius Kircher, writer John Glassie has the rare gift of authentic quirkiness. A Man of Misconceptions leaves you contemplating the big questions, delightedly scratching your head, and laughing-all at the same time." -Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod and Salt "I've been waiting my entire adult life for someone to write a popular biography of the loopy, ingenious scholar-priest Athanasius Kircher, and John Glassie has delivered marvelously. A man of insatiable curiosity and staggeringly diverse intellectual passions, Kircher may have been the greatest polymath of all time-or at least the most eccentric." -Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein "Glassie brings the ultimate mad professor Athanasius Kircher vividly to life, revealing him to be a kind of cross between Leonardo da Vinci and Mr. Bean. A most entertaining foray into the history of science." -Ross King, author of Brunelleschi's Dome "A marvelous insight into the mind of one of the world's most eccentric thinkers. Glassie brings Kircher to life-and what a life it is!" -Adrian Tinniswood, author of The Verneys and Pirates of Barbary
"Like his subject, Athanasius Kircher, writer John Glassie has the rare gift of authentic quirkiness. A Man of Misconceptions leaves you contemplating the big questions, delightedly scratching your head, and laughingall at the same time." Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod and Salt "I've been waiting my entire adult life for someone to write a popular biography of the loopy, ingenious scholar-priest Athanasius Kircher, and John Glassie has delivered marvelously. A man of insatiable curiosity and staggeringly diverse intellectual passions, Kircher may have been the greatest polymath of all timeor at least the most eccentric." Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein "Glassie brings the ultimate mad professor Athanasius Kircher vividly to life, revealing him to be a kind of cross between Leonardo da Vinci and Mr. Bean. A most entertaining foray into the history of science." Ross King, author of Brunelleschi's Dome "A marvelous insight into the mind of one of the world's most eccentric thinkers. Glassie brings Kircher to lifeand what a life it is!" Adrian Tinniswood, author of The Verneys and Pirates of Barbary "What a brilliant and revealing book about a fascinating character, one I had no previous knowledge about. Glassie's genius is to make Kircher and his era come alive for us centuries later in such a way that I can hear and touch him." Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone "In the course of his life, Kircher opined, almost invariably incorrectly, about the nature of light, magnetism, and the geography of the earth...Glassie has a genuine affection for Kircher despite the latter's laughably bizarre theories and self-aggrandizing egotism. In fact, the author's affection humanizes Kircher, making him oddly credible." Publishers Weekly (starred review) "An entertaining reminder that skepticism can be good." Library Journal "excellent...An entertaining and enlightening biography of a man who has been, probably unfairly, almost entirely left out of the history of science." Booklist "His sharp eye for the absurd helps Glassie make Kircher's story interesting and superbly human.... Glassie tells Kircher's complex story with humor and genuine passion, using fascinating details to bring us into Kircher's world. " Bookslut
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, August 2012
Booklist, October 2012
Kirkus Reviews, November 2012
New York Times Book Review, December 2012
New York Times Book Review, January 2013
New York Times Full Text Review, January 2013
Wall Street Journal, January 2013
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Description for Library
A former contributing editor to the New York Times Magazine, Glassie tells the story of Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century scientist much admired in his day for discoveries that have since proven to be, politely put, half-cocked. Magnetism is not the force driving the universe, his translations of Egyptian hieroglyphics were all wrong, and whats this about his proudly displaying a mermaids tailbone? An entertaining reminder that skepticism can be good.
Main Description
A Scientific American Best Science Book of 2012 An Atlantic Wire Best Book of 2012 A New York Times Book Review "Editor's Choice" 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 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.
Main Description
This is the vivid, unconventional story of Athanasius Kircher, the legendary seventeenth-century priest-scientist who was either a great genius or a colossal crackpot . . . or a bit of both. Kircher's interests 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.

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