[Skip to Navigation]
January 30, 1967


JAMA. 1967;199(5):336. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120050078020

Athanasius Kircher has been praised by some as one of the earliest microscopists to cast a suspicious eye upon microorganisms as the cause of infectious diseases,1 and damned by others as a dilettante in science.2 Some of his writings in mid 17th century Latin have been repeatedly and carefully translated for anyone interested in forming a judgment; other writings remain untranslated.

It is believed that inspection of his words will defend rather than deny the originality and significance of his observations and constructive imagination.

Kircher was born near Fulda in the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, a predominantly Catholic community.3 He studied Latin and music in the local school and later added Greek, Hebrew, and some science at the Jesuit college at Fulda. His novitiate in the Society of Jesus began at the age of 16. In the next decade his scholarly pursuits embraced philosophy, theology, logic, Oriental languages,