About Georgius Agricola
Agricola was born forty years after Gutenberg’s first printed book. At the time of his birth, Columbus had just returned from his great discovery of America and three years later Vasco Da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope – two explorers who are said to have initiated the greatest period of geographical expansion in the world’s history. The Reformation, the beginning of exploration in art and science, was still in its infancy.
Georgius Agricola was born in 1494 in Glauchau, Saxony. By the age of twenty, he was the Rector Extraordinarius of Greek at the Great School of Zwickau. After two years, he went to Leipzig for further study of medicine, physics and chemistry, and between 1524 and 1526 he achieved his medical degree in Italy.
Agricola was chosen as town physician at Joachimsthal (in the present-day Czech Republic) after returning to Germany in 1527. Joachimsthal was a major centre of mining. Here he was able to learn all about miners and mining. With this knowledge, Agricola wrote Bermannus, sive de re metallica dialogus (Basel, 1530) – a summary of mining and metallurgy.
Prince Maurice of Saxony appointed Agricola as Historiographer in 1530 and he moved to Chemnitz, where he carried on his observations of the mining industry. In 1533, he was appointed town physician and in the same year published De Mensuris et Ponderibus, a discussion of Roman and Greek weights and measures. As his popularity grew, Agricola was elected Burgomaster of Chemnitz.
His popularity unfortunately was short lived, as the Reformation took hold of Chemnitz and the western Christian church split between Protestant and Roman Catholic. Agricola did not give up his Roman Catholic faith and was forced to resign as Burgomaster. Instead he devoted his time to researching subjects which interested him - mineralogy, medical, mathematical, theological and historical. The following are some of Agricola’s main works:
De ortu et causis subterraneorum Lib. V, De natura eorum quae effluunt e terra Lib.III, De natura fossilium, De veteribus et novis metallis Lib.II (Basel, 1546)
De animantibus subterraneis (Basel, 1549)
De Re Metallica (Basel, 1556)
Georgius Agricola died in 1555, before his last publication De Re Metallica was published.
Steel engraving, view of Joachimsthal (in the present-day Czech Republic) around 1850 by
©Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum