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The Man Who Knew Everything


Rome, 1655


The carriage rumbled through the maze of narrow, cobblestoned streets. As it passed by, people pointed and chattered. Queen Christina of Sweden, one of the most brilliant and fascinating women in all of Europe, had just arrived in Rome, and the whole city was clamoring to meet her. But the queen had refused all the invitations to glittering parties. Instead, she wanted to go to a museum.




Not just any museum, mind you—the Kircherian Museum, a collection of the most exotic, unusual, and awe-inducing objects the world had to offer.




Finally, the queen’s carriage stopped before a long, pale-pink marble building, and her coachman opened the heavy, gilded carriage door. A man in dark priest’s robes stood by the building’s massive carved entrance. But this was no ordinary priest. This was the most famous scientist in all of Europe.




“Athanasius Kircher,” Queen Christina exclaimed as she raced up the steps toward him. “I’ve been dying to meet you.”




The Man Who Knew Everything


Step inside the Kircherian Museum! Feast your eyes upon the strangest wonders ever collected under one roof: A mermaid’s bones. A brick from the Tower of Babel. A statue that speaks. Marvel at strange fossils and exotic animals, at magnetic clocks and musical machines. Behold Egyptian obelisks covered in mysterious hieroglyphics, a hall of mirrors, and more curiosities than you could ever dream of.




How did the Kircherian Museum come to hold all these bizarre and fantastical objects? And who was its mysterious owner—the man Queen Christina had turned down all Rome’s wealthy and powerful to meet?




Athanasius Kircher was more than a scientist. He was a star. No single description could contain him. He was an inventor, an author, an adventurer. He published books on music, math, travel, and medicine. He built microscopes and machines. He spoke dozens of languages, and could break secret codes. He claimed to know what lay under the earth and why the sky was blue.He had even descended inside an active volcano—and lived to tell the tale! People called him “The Man Who Knew Everything.”




Kircher was a curious man, living in a time when there were many more questions about the world than there were answers. And he believed that by asking the right questions, he could understand all the mysteries of the universe.




Did he always get it right? Not even close! His translations of Egyptian hieroglyphics were nonsense. His speaking statue was a fraud. He gave stories and myths the same weight as facts. Kircher was a showman as much as a scientist—closer to P.T. Barnum than to Einstein. So how did he become his era’s biggest scientific celebrity, and why are people still fascinated by him today?


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