Sunday, July 17, 2022

Agricola, Georgius (Georg Bauer) (1494-1555

Georgius Agricola was a physician, scientist and metallurgist of note and it was this which led to the publication of De Re Metalicca. Agricola's real name was Georg Bauer. He was born in Glauchau, a village of about 1000 residents.

During the years 1514-1517 Agricola attended the University of Leipzig (Leipziger Universitat); this was during the revival of the classics of the early Reformation, and he studied philosophy, philology, Latin, and Greek. Between 1518 and 1522 he was a school teacher in Zwickau.

He took his degree in 1526 and became a practicing doctor; however, he never seems to have been terribly enthusiastic about his profession, devoting most of his energy to studies of mining and geology. Eventually he settled as a physician in Chemnitz. Later he continued his medical practiced at Joachimstal in 1527 in the Erzgebirge.

This town was newly built to serve the mining community in what was at the time the most important ore-mining filed in both Germany and Europe.

As a physician in the sixteenth century, he would naturally have been concerned with the development of medicines which would have led him to research the medical properties or ores and base metals.

He studied the mineralogy of his area and the mines and the miners who were working there. Agricola was the first to differentiate bismuth and antimony, and thus was the first to move beyond the seven metals known to the ancients.

He wrote several books in Latin on geology and mineralogy. His important work during that period was a glossary of mineralogical and mining terms in both Latin and German. His perhaps best-known work, De re metallica from 1556, contains a complete representation of contemporary mining and metallurgy and served as a standard work for several centuries.

De Re Metallica, literally translated, means "On the Nature of Metals," but the word metal had a wider meaning at the time, and meant any mineral. This large volume contains twelve books which deal with mining and metallurgy, including an account of glassmaking.

The book was clearly intended as a textbook of mining and mineralogy and as such it would have been brought to England by German engineers when they were employed by Mines Royal in the Keswick area in the late sixteenth century.

In addition to his studies in preparation for De Re Metalicca, Agricola was an ‘adventurer’ holding shares in the Gottesgab mine in the Erzegebirge.
Agricola, Georgius (Georg Bauer) (1494-1555)

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