Electronic edition published by Cultural Heritage Langauge Technologies (with permission from Charles Scribners and Sons) and funded by the National Science Foundation International Digital Libraries Program. This text has been proofread to a low degree of accuracy. It was converted to electronic form using data entry.
AGRICOLA, GEORGIUS, also known as Georg
Bauerb. Glauchau, Germany, 24 March 1494; d.
Chemnitz, Germany [now Karl-Marx-Stadt, German
Democratic Republic], 21 November 1555), mining,
Agricola's father was probably Gregor Bauer, a
dyer and woolen draper. His youngest son, Hans,
Georg's favorite brother, who joined Georg at Chemnitz
in 1540, followed the same profession. The eldest
son, Franciscus, became a priest at Zwickau and later
at Glauchau. Georg attended various schools in
Glauchau, Zwickau, and Magdeburg (1511), and in
1514 — rather late, since the average age at matriculation
was between twelve and fifteen—he entered
Leipzig University. In 1515 he received the B.A. and
remained at the university as lecturer in elementary
Greek until he was chosen ludi moderator at Zwickau
in 1517. In 1519, as rector extraordinarius, he organized
the new Schola Graeca and wrote his first work,
De prima ac simplici institutione grammatica (1520).
This short booklet is an excellent specimen of the new
humanistic pedagogy, with interesting examples taken
from a schoolboy's experiences.
Zwickau was a center of the Reformation, and
although Agricola believed a reformation was necessary,
he did not approve of its revolutionary aspects.
He therefore returned to Leipzig in 1523 to study
medicine under Heinrich Stromer von Auerbach; to
support himself, he had been endowed with the
prebend of the St. Erasmus altar for three years by
the council of Zwickau. This enabled him to visit
Italy, and on his way he stopped in Basel to pay his
respects to Erasmus. Agricola spent three years at
Bologna and Venice as a member of the editorial
staff for the Aldina editions of Galen and Hippocrates.
He also joined the English group headed by
Edward Wotton and John Clement, son-in-law of Sir
Thomas More. This group may have aroused Agricola's
interest in politics and economics.
Following the route through the mining districts
in Carinthia, Styria, and the Tyrol, Agricola returned
to Germany in the fall of 1526 with the M.D. and
a wife, the widow of Thomas Meiner, director of the
Schneeberg mining district. The following spring he
was elected town physician and apothecary of St.
Joachimsthal (now Jáchymov), Czechoslovakia. Here
he continued his studies on the pharmaceutical use
of minerals and smelting products, with a view to
compiling comments on Galen and Hippocrates.
In those days St. Joachimsthal was the most important
mining center in Europe besides Schwaz in the
Tyrol. Miners and smelters, some of whom suffered
from occupational diseases, were crowded together.
Agricola studied not only their ailments but also their
life, labor, and equipment. Day and night he visited
the mines and the smoky smelting houses, and soon
he had an excellent knowledge of mining and metallurgy.
He recorded his impressions in Bermannus sive
de re metallica dialogus (1530).
The success of this pioneer delineation of mining
and metallurgy was assured by Erasmus, who contributed
a letter of recommendation. Agricola was
now a well-known author, and he indefatigably sustained
his reputation with a flow of important books.
The next ones were political and economic: Oratio
de bello adversus Turcam suscipiendo (1531) and De
mensuris et ponderibus (1533).