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Terry Foreman   Link to this

Happy birthday, Athanasius Kircher, April 30th, 2012 by Michon Scott

By the year 1631, residents of southern Italy had perhaps grown complacent about the volcano that destroyed Pompeii. But near the end of that year, Mount Vesuvius reminded them of its power. From December 1631 to January 1632, explosive activity at Vesuvius caused a caldera collapse, a tsunami, mud flows, scorched farms, and up to 4,000 deaths. It was the volcano’s most destructive eruption since 79 AD.

The volcano was still rumbling several years later when it received a distinguished visitor: Athanasius Kircher, a German Jesuit mathematician and linguist living in Rome. Unlike his sensible contemporaries, he didn’t admire the volcano from a respectable distance. He descended into the active crater.

[Kircher's narrative of his descent, his engravingd of Vesuvius and the Earth and theories about them follow.] http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/blogs/earthmat...

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