Athanasius Kirchner

1602 to 1680

Athanasius Kirchner was a well educated Jesuite monk. He was Professor and did some scientific work. He became famous for being a specialist in foreign languages, like the Coptic language and the the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, which were not deciphered at this time. He also did some natural science, including the construction of a calculating machine, mapping water currents in the sea and mapping the moon. There are several descriptions on optical phenomenas, like the afterimages of the eye. He claims to have invented the Laterna Magica, which is not true as first descriptions from 1558 exist, but he probably reinvented it.

Athanasius Kirchner is most famous for one book, Mundus Subterraneus (About The World Underground). In this book he describes numerous undergound things all over the world, caves, mines, lava flows, underground water channels and more. Some of his descriptions look pretty strange and phantastic, some are simple misinterpretations because of ignorantness. Some others show an enormous amount of common sense. The importance of this book are not primarly the facts described, but the way it was written. It is the first attempt in history, to write a scientific book based on observation and facts, not on legends and the interpretation bible. In this sense, it is the first scientific book and the start of modern science.

As he lived most of his live in Rome, there is a very interesting museum about him Museo Kirchereano, which gives an impression of his extraordinary life.


02-MAY-1602 born in Geisa near Fulda, Germany.
1618 joined the Jesuite order.
1629 became Professor at Würzburg, Germany.
1634 worked at the Collegium Romanum at Rome.
1637-38 Kirchner visits Sicily and witnesses an eruption of Aetna and Stromboli.
27-NOV-1680 died in Rom.


There are numerous books Kirchner wrote, but we only cite his most important book, which has a lot to do with our topic, underground sites.