4. Erasmus, Agricola and Mineralogy

  • Francesco G. Sacco


This paper is a contribution to the assessment of the role and relevance of studia humanitatis in the emergence of Renaissance mineralogy, which will further consolidate our understanding of early modern science. It focuses on the relationship between Erasmus and the German physician Georg Agricola, while highlighting the humanist background of Agricola’s mineralogy.

Influenced by the lessons of Erasmus, Agricola drew a humanistic programme for the study of minerals. He criticized vernacular metallurgical writings and their alchemical roots. For Agricola, the study of minerals was not independent from the resurgent ancient natural history. Following humanist topics such as the distinction between imitatio and aemulatio, and the link between res and verba, this paper reconstructs the relationship between Erasmus’ Christian humanism and Agricola’s humanist mineralogy.


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Particular of a photo (Mural painting of a sad miner)