Agricola, Georgius, De re metallica, 1912/1950

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Georgius Agricola was born at Glauchau, in
Saxony, on March 24th, 1494, and therefore entered
the world when it was still upon the threshold of the
Renaissance; Gutenberg's first book had been print-
ed but forty years before; the Humanists had but
begun that stimulating criticism which awoke the
Reformation; Erasmus, of Rotterdam, who was sub-
sequently to become Agricola's friend and patron,
was just completing his student days.
The Refor-
mation itself was yet to come, but it was not long delayed, for Luther
was born the year before Agricola, and through him Agricola's home-
land became the cradle of the great movement; nor did Agricola escape being
drawn into the conflict.
Italy, already awake with the new classical revival, was
still a busy workshop of antiquarian research, translation, study, and
publication, and through her the Greek and Latin Classics were only
now available for wide distribution.
Students from the rest of Europe,
among them at a later time Agricola himself, flocked to the Italian
Universities, and on their return infected their native cities with the newly-
awakened learning.
At Agricola's birth Columbus had just returned from his
great discovery, and it was only three years later that Vasco Da Gama rounded
Cape Good Hope.
Thus these two foremost explorers had only initiated
that greatest period of geographical expansion in the world's history.
A few
dates will recall how far this exploration extended during Agricola's lifetime.
Balboa first saw the Pacific in 1513; Cortes entered the City of Mexico in
1520; Magellan entered the Pacific in the same year; Pizarro penetrated
into Peru in 1528; De Soto landed in Florida in 1539, and Potosi was dis-
covered in 1546. Omitting the sporadic settlement on the St.
Lawrence by
Cartier in 1541, the settlement of North America did not begin for a quarter
of a century after Agricola's death.
Thus the revival of learning, with its
train of Humanism, the Reformation, its stimulation of exploration and the
re-awakening of the arts and sciences, was still in its infancy with Agricola.

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