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Catholic Enc. on Albertus

“Like his contemporary, Roger Bacon (1214-94), Albert was an indefatigable student of nature, and applied himself energetically to the experimental sciences with such remarkable success that he has been accused of neglecting the sacred sciences (Henry of Ghent, De scriptoribus ecclesiasticis, II, x). Indeed, many legends have been circulated which attribute to him the power of a magician or sorcerer. Dr. Sighart (Albertus Magnus) examined these legends, and endeavoured to sift the truth from false or exaggerated stories. Other biographers content themselves with noting the fact that Albert’s proficiency in the physical sciences was the foundation on which the fables were constructed. The truth lies between the two extremes. Albert was assiduous in cultivating the natural sciences; he was an authority on physics, geography, astronomy, mineralogy, chemistry (alchimia), zo├Âlogy, physiology, and even phrenology. On all these subjects his erudition was vast, and many of his observations are of permanent value. Humboldt pays a high tribute to his knowledge of physical geography (Cosmos, II, vi). Meyer writes (Gesch. der Botanik): “No botanist who lived before Albert can be compared with him, unless it be Theophrastus, with whom he was not acquainted; and after him none has painted nature in such living colours, or studied it so profoundly, until the time of Conrad, Gesner, and Cesalpini.”

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