Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/418

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Mitscherlich, and De Sénarmont. It is now time for it, gathering up the scattered results it has collected, and adding new conquests to them, to enter resolutely into the biological period.—Translated for the Popular Science Monthly from the Revue Scientifique.

 

SKETCH OF GERARD MERCATOR.

GERARD MERCATOR, the distinguished geographer and author of the system of map-drawing which bears his name, was born at Rupelmonde, Flanders, March 5, 1512, and died at Duisburg, December 2, 1594. The name by which he is known, Mercator, is a translation into Latin of his real name, which is given by one authority as Kaufmann, by others as Krämer, or De Cremer, all meaning merchant or trader. He was first sent to school at Bois-le-Duc, under Macropedius, but afterward went to Louvain, where he applied him-self to the study of philosophy and mathematics so earnestly that he was prone to let his days pass without eating and his nights without sleeping, and had to be reminded that those duties should be attended to. Of the nature and influence of his studies at Louvain an interesting incident is related by his biographer, Van Raemdonck ("Gérard Mercator, sa Vie et ses Œuvres"), which also illustrates a striking trait of his character. The Bible to him was a book of authority, and he had conceived a high respect and formed a fixed attachment for its text. He had also been taught the physics of Aristotle, which then prevailed in all the schools. His studies in the book of Genesis soon showed him that there were many discrepancies between the cosmogony of Moses and the teachings of Aristotle and other accepted philosophers; thus a dilemma was presented to him. He would not give up his Bible; must he give up Aristotle? To relieve himself from his embarrassment, he took a course, says Van Raemdonck, "that was as Christian as it was logical. Believing in the inspiration of the Bible, and convinced of man's fallibility, he ventured to doubt the orthodoxy of the philosophers, resolved to revise all his accepted opinions, and, with his reason as his only guide, undertook to penetrate for himself the mysteries of Nature." He went to work to construct a new cosmogony. In order to escape critical annoyance, he left Louvain and retired to Antwerp, where he hired rooms and gave himself up to his investigations on this subject. There he framed a cosmogony which agreed at once with his reason and with the Bible. When he returned to Louvain, the doctors of the university, shocked at his boldness in questioning what was almost universally received, were ready to attack his new doctrines, anticipating their immediate publication. But he kept his own counsel, and held his cosmogony in