Bauer, Georg (1490–1555)
German scholar and ‘‘father of mineralogy.’’ He Latinized
his surname (which means ‘‘boor’’ or ‘‘husbandman’’) to
‘‘Agricola’’ (‘‘farmer’’). Bauer was born March 24, 1490, at
Glauchau, Saxony. An able and industrious man, he acquired
considerable knowledge of the principles of medicine, which
led him, as it led many of his contemporaries, to search for the
elixir of life and the philosophers’ stone. A treatise on these
interesting subjects, which he published at Cologne in 1531, secured
him the favor of Duke Maurice of Saxony, who appointed
him superintendent of his silver mines at Chemnitz. In this
post he obtained a practical acquaintance with the properties
of metals, which dissipated his wild notions of their possible
transmutation into gold; but if he abandoned one superstition
he adopted another, and from the legends of the miners he imbibed
a belief in the existence of good and evil spirits in the
bowels of the earth, and in the creation of explosive gases and
firedamp by the malicious agency of the latter.
Bauer’s major work, De Re Metallica, completed in 1550 and
published in 1556, has an illustration showing dowsers at work
searching for minerals with a divining rod.
He died in Chemnitz on November 21, 1555.