Institute and Museum of History of Science, Florence, ITALY

                      The main characters                   
Robert Hooke (1635-1702) Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) Jacques-Alexandre Le Tenneur (died after 1652)

Athanasius Kircher

Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia universalis, sive Ars magna consoni et dissoni in x. libros digesta, Roma 1650, frontispiece.


Born at Geisa, in Germany, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1616. He first read mathematics and philosophy at Würzburg, then moved to Avignon, then lastly to Rome, where, around 1638, he was called upon to teach mathematics in the Collegio Romano. He was a prolific writer of European fame, the author of many works dedicated to diverse fields of knowledge, from philology to physics, sacred writings, astronomy, natural history, mathematics, music, egyptology, geography and Chinese civilisation. Among the scientific works, we should note the Magnes, sive de ars magnetica (1641), the Ars magna lucis et umbrae (1645), the Mundus subterraneus (1665), the Organum mathematicum (1668) and the Musurgia universalis (1650).
In this last work, Kircher tells of having performed an experiment which convinced him of the impossibility of a vacuum in nature. The experiment was conducted by Gaspero Berti and himself, consisting in the insertion of a bell into the part of the barometer in which - according to the "vacuists" - the vacuum should be produced. Using a magnet outside the apparatus, they made the bell clapper move. According to the Jesuit, the bell's sound was distinctly audible, showing the presence of air which transferred it. A similar experiment was performed, with exactly the opposite results, by Robert Boyle, using the air-pump. Boyle claimed that, after the removal of air, the sound was no longer heard.





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