Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Man Who Knew Everything

The Man Who Knew Everything is an illustrated biography of Athanasius Kircher aimed at younger readers.  Written by Marilee Peters, the prose is informal and interesting.  Kircher lived an incredible life which almost defies belief (when faced with a devastating volcanic eruption, he decides to pay a local guide to help him up the mountain and lower him into the vent so he could observe and take samples).  Unsurprisingly, he nearly died.

He was a polymath, with a wide interest in a huge variety of subjects.  His known written works include treatises (not always accurate) on Egyptian hieroglyphics, natural history, mathematics, physics, medicine, language, geology, music theory and many other subjects.

The art for this short book (61 pages) is by Roxanna Bikadoroff and plays up the fantastic elements of Kircher's life.  There are period woodcuts juxtaposed with charming pen and ink and colorized maps which add a lot to the narrative.

There are also sidebars with highlight information from Kircher's life and the social and scientific upheaval of the mid 17th century. At the end of the book are good references for further reading along with an index and maps and timelines with interesting points about Kircher and his journeys.

All in all, a worthwhile biography for young readers about a formerly obsolete scientist who deserves more modern interest.

Four stars

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.

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