Donnelly, Ignatius (1831–1901)
Popular writer of books offering an alternative view of
human history. Donnelly was born in Philadelphia, November
3, 1831. A farmer-politician, he became lieutenant governor of
Minnesota and then a state senator. At one point he was nominated
for the vice president of the United States.
Donnelly wrote several novels but is best remembered for
reviving interest in the lost continent of Atlantis in his book Atlantis,
the Antediluvian World (1882). Using nineteenth-century
ethnological and archeological data, Donnelly argued that the
likenesses noted in the ancient cultures on either side of the Atlantic
pointed to a common origin, a sunken continent whose
survivors populated lands to the east and west.
In his next book, Ragnarök The Age of Fire and Gravel (1883),
he claimed that the Pleistocene Ice Age resulted from a collision
between the earth and a comet. This was the first statement
of a theme to be developed many decades later by Immanuel
Velikovsky. Donnelly’s two books have become classics of occultism
and have been reprinted in modern times. Atlantis has
been especially favored by followers of Edgar Cayce, who had
much to say about Atlantis.
Continuing his foray into alternative histories, Donnelly also
wrote The Great Cryptogram (1888) designed to show that the
plays of Shakespeare were written by Bacon. Donnelly died
January 2, 1901.
Donnelly, Ignatius. Atlantis The Antediluvian World. 1882.
Rev. ed., edited by Egerton Sykes. New York Gramercy, 1949.
———. The Great Cryptogram Francis Bacon’s Cipher in the Socalled
Shakespeare Plays. Chicago R. S. Peale, 1888.
———. Ragnarök the Age of Fire and Gravel. Reprint, New
Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1970. Reprinted as The Destruction
of Atlantis; Ragnarök. Blauvelt, N.Y. Rudolf Steiner
Publications, 1971.
Ridge, Martin. Ignatius Donnelly The Portrait of a Politician.
Chicago University of Chicago Press, 1962.