JF Ptak Science Books Post 1325
The great semi-mystifying polymath Athanaseus Kircher (1602-1680) lived for a long time and filled his life with ideas and words, producing dozens of books during his time on Earth, some of which were never published even though written, some manuscripts lost forever. His was a massive output of extraordinary breadth. He wasted little time what I can see, writing on a spectacular range of subjects, enlightening people, confusing people, generating great theories and some bad ideas.
The image below comes from his Mundus Subterraenus, published in 1664, and which was concerned mainly with geology and the theory of the Earth. He postulated the structure of the interior of the Earth, the origin of heat, the source of the tides, the composition of light, and of course the existence of the Virgin Mary in amber. There was also a fair amount of work on one of his side interests that populated a number of hs works, alchemy and the search for the organization of materials.
This image, "Tabula Combinatoria" (combinatory table or table of combinations) was an attempt to classify the alchemical transformation of metals and nonmetals via solve and coagula (mediante igne solvuntur et coagulatur), of solution and coagulation, a Curiosi Lectoris of Chymicas operationes, in a search for the key to all transformations, the prima materia. [The original erngraving is available from our blog bookstore, here.]
Kircher as I said exceeded his learning and logic all throughout his life, usually with positive results to us here in his future; but in this case, his alchemical quest--like the million words and countless hours and lead-based brain damage undertaken by Sir Isaac--proved to be a dry hole. But dry holes like mistakes in general are not necessarily without importance--they are valueless if and only if nothing comes of them, or nothing is recognized in i n the method of leading to the mistake, or if by our using the mistake it didn't allow you to pursue something else. Science life is filled with almost nothing but error to the observer--it is our job to do something with the stuff that doesn't work.