who is Athanasius Kircher?

I came across The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society a while ago, and it has become a steady source of not-quite amusement but certainly curiosity, and a trove of trivial facts suitable for impressing colleagues and inspiring eye-rolls from your friends. It turns out Athanasius Kircher was a German Jesuit scholar in the 17th century, who studied (among other things) language (including hieroglyphics), natural phenomena such as earthquakes and volcanos, and medicine. The Athanasius Kircher society “was chartered to perpetuate the spirit and sensibilities of the late Athanasius Kircher, SJ. Our interests extend to the wondrous, the curious, the singular, the esoteric, the arcane, and the sometimes hazy frontier between the plausible and the implausible — anything that Father Kircher might find cool if he were alive today.”

Their website is filled with information about things like security coffins, unusual cloud formations, and the World’s Largest Collection of World’s Smallest Versions of World’s Largest Things (part of the Lesser Known Museum Week, of course). Go visit, you’ll be educated, amazed, maybe horrified, but probably not bored.

For more information on Father Kircher, Wikipedia seems to be a good place to start. Standard grain-of-salt warning applies.

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