Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/265

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259
GEORGE MARCGRAVE

scientific staff and that Marcgrave had his work assigned by him (Piso). While it is probable that the exact facts can never be absolutely ascertained, it would seem that if Piso were scientific chief his headship was merely nominal. So far as the present writer has been able to learn, Piso's only preparation for scientific work consisted in his medical training, and this, it will be recognized, was very limited (he was born in 1596). Marcgrave, however, had had 11 years' study and training at the best German and Dutch universities, and was skilled not merely in medicine, but in botany, natural history, mathematics and astronomy. He was selected by De Laet and Count Maurice on account of these scientific attainments, was given the official post of astronomer with a definite salary, and was the intimate personal friend of Count Maurice, and as such was a member of his official family.

We learn from many sources, but above all from De Laet in his preface to Marcgrave's "Historiæ Rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ," that this was written in the city of Mauritia and in cipher. It seems well to quote De Laet (1648 folio).

When his papers so confused and unfinished were turned over to me by the illustrious Count Johann Moritz, by whose kindness and favor and outlay he had done these things, no small difficulty presented itself at once. For the writer fearing that some one might try to claim for himself his (Marcgrave's) work, should any misfortune by chance befall him before he should be able to make his observations known to the world, had written a good part of those things which were of most moment in certain characters devised by himself as a second alphabet left in secret, which must first be understood and transcribed with a greater effort than any one would wish to assume. Nevertheless, although occupied with other matters, I accomplished this task with great labor.

Speaking on this subject Lichtenstein conjectures:

From the wonderful activity with which he during his stay in Brazil made and recorded his observations, one may conclude that Marcgrave anticipated an early death and made haste to firmly establish his fame.

And when one reads of his early and almost immediate death, and of the fate of his literary remains, his sound judgment in this matter is to be commended.

However, the present writer, in the light of the data noted above, wishes to call attention to the fact that the astronomical and mathematical papers embraced under the general title "Progymnastica Mathematica Americana" do not seem to have been written in cipher. The bearing of this on the Marcgrave-Piso controversy would seem to be that, since the latter had no mathematical training whatever, there was no danger of his appropriating these papers as his own in case any accident should befall their writer; but that such danger was. to be apprehended with reference to the natural-history papers, hence the cipher.ref>See foot-note to page 256.</ref> So cautious was Marcgrave that some things wore written in a second cipher (De Laet, Preface, 1648).