Agricola, Georgius, De re metallica, 1912/1950

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Our more immediate concern, however, is with the advances which were due
to him in the sciences of Geology, Mineralogy, and Mining Engineering.
No
appreciation of these attainments can be conveyed to the reader unless he
has some understanding of the dearth of knowledge in these sciences prior
to Agricola's time.
We have in Appendix B given a brief review of the
literature extant at this period on these subjects.
Furthermore, no appreciation
of Agricola's contribution to science can be gained without a study of De
Ortu et Causís and De Natura Fossílíum, for while De Re Metallíca is of much
more general interest, it contains but incidental reference to Geology and
Mineralogy.
Apart from the book of Genesis, the only attempts at funda-
mental explanation of natural phenomena were those of the Greek Philosophers
and the Alchemists.
Orthodox beliefs Agricola scarcely mentions; with the
Alchemists he had no patience.
There can be no doubt, however, that his
views are greatly coloured by his deep classical learning.
He was in fine to a
certain distance a follower of Aristotle, Theophrastus, Strato, and other leaders
of the Peripatetic school.
For that matter, except for the muddy current
which the alchemists had introduced into this already troubled stream,
the whole thought of the learned world still flowed from the Greeks.
Had he
not, however, radically departed from the teachings of the Peripatetic school,
his work would have been no contribution to the development of science.
Certain of their teachings he repudiated with great vigour, and his
laboured and detailed arguments in their refutation form the first battle in
science over the results of observation versus inductive speculation. To use
his own words: “Those things which we see with our eyes and understand
by means of our senses are more clearly to be demonstrated than if learned
by means of reasoning.”15 The bigoted scholasticism of his times necessi-
tated as much care and detail in refutation of such deep-rooted beliefs, as would
be demanded to-day by an attempt at a refutation of the theory of evolution,
and in consequence his works are often but dry reading to any but those
interested in the development of fundamental scientific theory.

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