Georgius Agricola

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Georgius Agricola, painting by Gustav Schubert (1927)

Georg Agricola or Georgius Agricola , latinized from Georg Bauer (* March 24, 1494 in Glauchau ; † November 21, 1555 in Chemnitz ), was a German doctor, pharmacist and scientist who was known as the "father of mineralogy " and the founder of modern geology and mining science applies. As an outstanding Renaissance scholar and humanist , he also distinguished himself through special achievements in education, medicine, metrology , philosophy and history.

Georg (ius) Agricola was born as Georg Pawer or Bauer . Petrus Mosellanus , his Leipzig professor, advised him - as was customary at the time - to latinize the name.


Adolescent years and studies

Georg Pawer ( farmer ) was born in Glauchau in 1494 as the second of seven children of a cloth maker and dyer . There he received his first lessons, so that at the age of twelve he could go to Chemnitz to attend Latin school. At first his track is lost here. He showed up briefly in Magdeburg, but only his enrollment at the University of Leipzig is certain . There he studied ancient languages ​​(especially Latin and Greek) from 1514 to 1518 with Petrus Mosellanus (1493–1524), a follower of Erasmus of Rotterdam , who then recommended him in Zwickau . Agricola was first vice-principal there (1518), then as the successor to his friend Stephan Roth , who moved to Joachimsthal, rector of the Zwickau Ratsschule (1519) and created a new type of school with Latin, Greek and Hebrew classes in combination with business studies : Agriculture, viticulture, construction and metrology, arithmetic, pharmaceuticals and the military . His first publication, a grammar of the Latin language ( Libellus de prima ac simplici institutione grammatica ), appeared in Leipzig in 1520.

Stay in Italy

After Agricola had studied again in Leipzig in 1522, this time medicine, physics and chemistry, as well as humanities subjects, he went to the universities of Bologna and Padua in 1523 . In 1524 he went to Venice to edit the Galen edition for the Aldus Manutius publishing house . In 1526 he returned to Chemnitz.

Back in Germany

Monument in Agricola's birthplace Glauchau
Replacement of the grave slab for Agricola in Zeitz Cathedral

In 1527 Agricola married the widow Anna Meyner from Chemnitz and now settled down as a doctor and pharmacist in St. Joachimsthal (today: Jáchymov), probably through the mediation of Georg Sturtz, who was resident there and was moving back to Erfurt . In 1531 he became a city doctor in Chemnitz, where he held the office of mayor four times (1546, 1547, 1551 and 1553). He was also employed in the civil service as a Saxon court historiographer. As a polymath, Agricola conducted research in the fields of medicine, pharmacy , alchemy , philology and education, politics and history, metrology, geosciences and mining . Agricola combined humanistic learning with technical knowledge.

This is how his first work, Bermannus, sive de re metallica (1530), was written, in which he describes procedures for ore searching and processing as well as metal extraction as well as advances in mining technology , mine separation , the transport, processing and processing of ores. In De Mensuris et ponderibus from 1533, he describes the Greek and Roman weights and measures - at that time there were no uniform measurements, which significantly hindered trade. This work laid the foundation for Agricola's reputation as a humanistic scholar.

Agricola founded the geosciences with several works : He describes the origin of substances in the earth's interior in De ortu et causis subterraneorum of 1544, the nature of things emerging from the earth's interior in his work De natura eorum, quae effluunt ex terra from 1545, Minerals in De natura fossilium as well as the ore deposits and ore mining in old and new times ( De veteribus et novis metallis ). The Meurer letter ( Epistula ad Meurerum ) from 1546 is one of these works.

Agricola was married twice and had (at least) six children. His first wife died in 1540. Two years later, at the age of 48, he married the 30 years younger daughter Anna of Ulrich Schütz the Elder. J. , the former owner of the Saigerhütte Chemnitz . As a result, he married into what was then the richest family in Chemnitz.

On November 21, 1555, at the age of 61, he died in Chemnitz. After the Reformation in Saxony , the city refused to allow the Catholic Agricola to be buried in Chemnitz. On the initiative of his friend, the scholar and bishop Julius Pflugk von Zeitz, he was then buried in the castle church of Zeitz .

De natura fossilium libri X

Based on many of its own investigations, Agricola summarized the mineralogical and geological knowledge of his time in the ten books of De natura fossilium (1546). At that time, fossils were not only understood to be fossilized living things, but also stones and minerals. The work is considered to be the first comprehensive textbook or manual of mineralogy which made use of a systematic scientific approach. It describes the occurrence, extraction, properties and use of minerals. Above all, Agricola classified the minerals on the basis of their physical properties such as shape, color, transparency, luster and weight (density).

The first book deals with general mineral properties, the second earth, followed by books on “lean” and “fat” salts (bitumen). In the fifth to seventh books, among other things, precious stones are described, in the eighth and ninth books metallic slags. Finally, the tenth book deals with mineral mixtures.

Main work - De re metallica libri XII

Title page of De re metallica libri XII

Through numerous trips in the mining district of the Saxon and Bohemian Ore Mountains, Agricola gained an overview of the entire technology of mining and metallurgy in his time. The result is his major work De re metallica libri XII , published one year after his death in Basel in 1556 in Latin . It was later translated into numerous other languages. Philippus Bechius (1521–1560), a friend of Agricola's and professor at the University of Basel, translated the script into German and published it in 1557 under the title Vom Bergkwerck XII Books . It is the first systematic technological study of mining and metallurgy and remained the authoritative work on the subject for two centuries.

The first volume is a contemporary apology and compares mining with other trades, such as agriculture or trade. In the second volume, the development conditions are discussed, that is, geographical composition, water drainage, roads, land ownership and sovereignty; in the third volume the marrow separation system . The fourth volume deals with the distribution of the mine fields and the duties of the mining official. The fifth volume describes the various types of shafts and their expansion, as well as the construction of the corridors and underground measurements. The sixth is the most extensive volume and deals with the equipment and machinery used in mining. The tasting of the ores can be found in the seventh volume, their preparation process in the eighth volume. The smelting and the processes for metal extraction including instructions for the construction of the melting furnace can be found in the ninth volume. Volumes ten, eleven and twelve also deal with the separation of precious metals, the extraction of salts, sulfur and bitumen as well as glass.

In the entire work, only objective properties are up for discussion, all traditions and alchemical statements are examined for their truthfulness . In the absence of uniform measurements, Agricola refers to known information: “For small, medium-sized or coarse pieces of tin ore, the experienced smelter needs ... if he fuses the first, only slowly fire, if the second, medium, if the third, sharp; but much less sharp than when it fuses gold, silver or copper ore. "or" ... you have to heat as long as you need fifteen steps to go. "The descriptions of the minerals are based on the works of Avicenna and Albertus Magnus on.

This book of metallurgy was also known to Francis Bacon , who took important suggestions from it. In addition to a modern theory of the formation of ore veins, it also contains sections about goblins and dragons in the pits , which Agricola called "living beings underground" ( De animantibus subterraneis ).

Posthumous honors

In 1926, Oskar von Miller , creator of the Deutsches Museum , and Conrad Matschoß , director of the Association of German Engineers and Nestor of the German History of Technology , founded the Georg Agricola Society at the Deutsches Museum. The first goal of the society was to publish the first modern German edition of Agricola's main work.

In 1960, the Association of German Engineers constituted the "Georg Agricola Society for the Promotion of the History of Natural Sciences and Technology eV" with significant participation from the German Association of Technical and Scientific Associations and the mining industry.

In 1961 the Saalfeld hospital (today Thuringia Clinics ) was named "Georgius Agricola".

The university library of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg was named after Georg Agricola in 1980. There is also an Agricolastraße in Freiberg . The Technical College of Mining in Bochum has been called the Technical University of Georg Agricola since 1995 . The hospital in Zeitz and a street in this city are also named after him. A student association based in Aachen and Clausthal-Zellerfeld gave itself the name Academic Association Agricola Schlägel und Eisen in 1948 and later changed it to Agricola Academic Association . The West Saxon University of Applied Sciences in Zwickau owns a Georgius Agricola building. There are Georgius Agricola high schools in Glauchau and Chemnitz as well as in Hohenmölsen (Saxony-Anhalt). In the cities of Chemnitz, Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Glauchau , Schneeberg and Zwickau streets and the Glauchau city library are named after him.


pdf 175 MB
  • Bermannus sive de re metallica , Basel 1530 ( digitized version ) and Paris 1541 (with a foreword by Erasmus)
  • De bello adversus Turcas , Nuremberg 1531, German ( digitized / PDF )
  • De mensuris et ponderibus libri V , Paris 1533
  • De ortu et causis subterraneorum libri V , Basel 1546 and 1558
  • De natura eorum, quae effluunt ex terra , Basel 1546 (reprint: SNM, Bratislava 1996, ISBN 80-85753-91-X )
  • De veteribus et novis metallis libri II , Basel 1546
  • De natura fossilium libri X , Basel 1546
  • De animantibus subterraneis liber , Basel 1549 (reprint: VDI-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1978, ISBN 3-18-400400-7 )
  • De mensuris quibus intervalla metimur liber , 1550
  • De precio metallorum et monetis liber III , 1550
  • De peste libri tres Basel 1554 ( digitized version )
  • De re metallica libri XII , Basel 1556 ( digitized / transcript )
    • Vom Bergkwerck 12 books (translated into German by the Basel doctor and professor Philippus Bechius / Philipp Beck), Basel 1557 (facsimile print with commentary volume by Hans Prescher, VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, Weinheim 1985, ISBN 3-527-17535-0 ; other edition : Verlag Glückauf, Essen 1985 with accompanying text by Wilhelm Treue, ISBN 3-7739-0463-0 )
    • Berckwerck book (German translation, dedicated to Joachim Strüppe ), Frankfurt am Main ( Sigmund Feyerabend ) 1580 ( digitized version )

Editions and translations


  • Wilhelm von Gümbel:  Agricola, Georgius . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 1, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1875, pp. 143-145.
  • Walther Fischer: For the 450th birthday of Agricola, the "father of mineralogy and pioneer of mining and metallurgy" . Stuttgart 1944.
  • Wilhelm Pieper:  Agricola, Georgius. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 1, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1953, ISBN 3-428-00182-6 , pp. 98-100 ( digitized version ).
  • Hans Hartmann: Georg Agricola (1494–1555). Founder of three sciences: Mineralogy - Geology - Mining Science (=  Great Natural Scientists . Volume 13 ). Stuttgart 1953.
  • Ulrich Horst: The Agricola booklet . Dresden 1955.
  • Hans Fischer: Georgius Agricola . Pictures from the life of a great German humanist. Petermänken, Schwerin 1969.
  • Hans Prescher : Georgius Agricola - For the 425th birthday of the great Saxon natural scientist (=  Erzgebirgische Heimatblätter . No. 5 ). 1980, ISSN  0232-6078 , p. 97-103 .
  • Roland Ladwig : Economic thinking among mining scientists using the example of Georgius Agricola . Ed .: Bergakademie Freiberg . Freiberg 1987, DNB  881298972 (113 p., Habilitation ( dissertation B )).
  • José Lima-de-Faria (ed.): Historical atlas of crystallography . Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht / Boston / London 1990, ISBN 0-7923-0649-X .
  • Collective of authors: Specialized lexicon ABC researchers and inventors . Ed .: Hans-Ludwig Wußing. 1st edition. Thun, Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 978-3-8171-1258-6 (extensive two-page short biography of Georgius Agricola).
  • Friedrich Naumann (Ed.): Georgius Agricola - 500 years: Scientific conference from 25. – 27. March 1994 in Chemnitz, Free State of Saxony . Basel / Boston / Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-7643-5109-8 .
  • Hans Prescher , Otfried Wagenbreth : Georgius Agricola - his time and its traces . Verlag für Grundstofftindustrie, Leipzig / Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-342-00527-0 .
  • Gero von Wilpert : Goethe Lexicon . In: Kröner's pocket edition . tape 407 . Kröner, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-520-40701-9 , pp. 9 , second entry .
  • Wolfgang Klose: The Wittenberg Scholar's Studbook: the studbook of Abraham Ulrich (1549–1577) and David Ulrich (1580–1623) . Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle 1999, ISBN 3-932776-76-3 .
  • Georgius Agricola - mining scientist and humanist of the Renaissance . In: Manfred Bachmann (Hrsg.): Small chronicle of great masters - Erzgebirge we are proud of . Part 1. Printing and publishing house Mike Rockstroh, Aue 2000, p. 13-15 .
  • Manfred Vasold: 'Agricola, Georg (farmer) . In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte . De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , pp. 18th f .
  • Friedrich Naumann : Georgius Agricola - mountain scholar, natural scientist, humanist . Sutton, Erfurt 2007, ISBN 3-86680-214-5 .
  • Friedrich P. Springer: From Agricola's “pomps” in mining, which “pulled the water through the wind”, to the rod pumps in oil production . In: petroleum, natural gas, coal . No. 10 . Urban, 2007, ISSN  0179-3187 .
  • Friedrich Naumann : Georgius Agricola - mountain scholar, natural scientist, humanist . E-Sights Publishing, Chemnitz 2015, ISBN 978-3-945189-03-0 .

Web links

Commons : Georgius Agricola  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Wikisource: Georgius Agricola  - Sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Agricola  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Who is Georgius Agricola? In: Agricola Research Center Chemnitz, accessed on February 13, 2020 .
  2. Ralf Kern: Scientific instruments in their time . tape 1 . Cologne 2010, p. 334 .
  3. ^ Agricola, Georgius. In: German biography., accessed on February 16, 2020 .
  4. ^ Georgius Agricola's Latin grammar in the context of time and space. In: Accessed February 16, 2020 .
  5. ^ Winfried R. Pötsch, Annelore Fischer and Wolfgang Müller with the collaboration of Heinz Cassebaum : Lexicon of important chemists . Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig, 1988, p. 10, ISBN 3-323-00185-0 .
  6. Rudolf Werner Soukup: From the beginning to the end of the 18th century: mining, alchemy and early chemistry; History of the early chemical technology and alchemy of the Eastern Alpine region, taking into account developments in neighboring regions. (= Contributions to the history of science and science research. Volume 7), Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2007 (= Chemistry in Austria. Volume 1), ISBN 978-3-205-77567-6 , p. 139; 175
  7. ^ Gisela-Ruth Engewald: On the 450th anniversary of the death of Georgius Agricola. (PDF; 1.1 MB) Chemnitz University of Technology , 2005, p. 6 , archived from the original on December 8, 2009 ; Retrieved May 21, 2010 .
  8. Brief description of De natura fossilium in the Mineralienatlas