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Cat Pianos, Sound-Houses, and Other Imaginary Musical Instruments

- July 15, 2015 in athanasius kircher, cat piano, cats, Culture & History, Featured Articles, francis bacon, imaginary instruments, J.J. Grandville, Music, new atlantis, Science & Medicine, utopias

Deirdre Loughridge and Thomas Patteson, curators of the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments, explore the wonderful history of made-up musical contraptions, including a piano comprised of yelping cats and Francis Bacon's 17th-century vision of experimental sound manipulation.

Athanasius Kircher and the Hieroglyphic Sphinx

- May 16, 2013 in Art & Illustrations, Articles, athanasius kircher, Books, code, Culture & History, egypt, hieroglyphs, kircher, Religion, Myth & Legend

More than 170 years before Jean-François Champollion had the first real success i…

Athanasius, Underground

- November 1, 2012 in Art and Illustrations, Articles, athanasius kircher, Books, dragons, earthquake, giants, History, hollow earth, mount etna, mount vesuvius, Science, volcanoes

With his enormous range of scholarly pursuits the 17th century polymath Athanasius Kircher has been hailed as the last Renaissance man and “the master of hundred arts”. John Glassie looks at one of Kircher’s great masterworks Mundus Subterraneus and how it was inspired by a subterranean adventure Kircher himself made into the bowl of Vesuvius. Just before Robert Hooke’s rightly famous microscopic observations of everything from the “Edges of Rasors” to “Vine mites” appeared in Micrographia in 1665, the insatiably curious and incredibly prolific Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher published what is in many ways a more spectacular work. Mundus Subterraneus (Underground World), a two-volume tome of atlas-like dimensions, was intended to lay out “before the eyes of the curious reader all that is rare, exotic, and portentous contained in the fecund womb of Nature.” There is an “idea of the earthly sphere that exists in the divine mind,” Kircher proclaimed, and in this book, one of more than thirty on almost as many subjects that he published during his lifetime, he tried to prove that he had grasped it. As a French writer put it some years later, “it would take a whole journal to indicate everything remarkable in this [...]