Author: Noël Golvers
Part ofCoimbra Between Sciences and Education (coord. by Mário Santiago de Carvalho)
Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Published: July, 30th, 2019
DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.3355406


The latest version of this entry may be cited as follows: Golvers, Noël, “Aigenler, Adam”, Conimbricenses.org Encyclopedia, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Simone Guidi (eds.), doi = “10.5281/zenodo.3355406”, URL = “http://www.conimbricenses.org/encyclopedia/aigenler-adam”, latest revision: July, 30th, 2019.


Life and Jesuit curriculum

Adam Aigenler was born in Tramin, northern Italy (Italian Termeno; Trentino) on 14th October 1633, and entered the Society of Jesus on 14the October 1653 in the Novitiate of the Provincia Germania Superior in Landsberg (Bavaria : Germ. Sup. 23, f° 299r.). Afterwards he studied philosophy for three years (Germ. Sup., 47 [Cat. Brevis 1641-1678]: in 1656-1657 logica (f°198r) ; in 1657-1658 physica (f° 217v.); in 1658-1659  metaphysica (f° 238v.), and four years theology (1663/4 – 1666/67): 1st year in 1663-64 (?); 2nd year in 1664-65; the 3rd in 1665-66 and the 4th in 1666-67  (Germ. Sup. 47, f° 342 ; 372v. and 401 respectively). Simultaneously he taught 2 years grammar and 2 years humanities in the Collegium Burghusianum (Burghausen) and in Ingolstadt (according to  Germ. Sup. 24, f° 202v. [1660], n° 4; f° 307v. [1665], n° 43). Still in Ingolstadt he taught since 1667 mathematics and Hebrew – in the 17th century not a rare combination (Schuppener, 1999: 55) – although it is not directly reported where he had acquired this knowledge. Both disciplines he may have learned by a kind of (not registered) ‘private study’ with Johannes Vogler, SJ (1610-1676), who taught mathematics and Hebrew in Ingolstadt from 1652/3 to 1663/1664 (Fischer, 1978, 221) : see the details of his curriculum in the  Catalogi Breves for this period in Germ. Sup. 47 (f° 157 for 1654-1655; f° 172r. for 1655 – 56 ; f° 197 for 1656 – 1657 ; f° 217 for 1657-1658 ; f° 238 for 1658-59 ; f° 262v. for 1659-1660 ; f° 287 for 1660-61 ; f° 314v. for 1661-1662); as the Catalogi for 1662-1663 are lacking, he is mentioned for the last time in 1663-1664 , on f° 341v. : «P. Joannes Voglerus : Prof. Mathematicae, linguae Hebraicae in Academia et domi»; after this year he left Ingolstadt, asking for the China mission (27.07.1664: Germ. Sup. 23, no. 31). In the two following years Voglerus was substituted by Wolfgang Leinberer (Leinberger; Leimberger), Prof. Math. et Linguae Hebraicae in Academia et Domi (f° 372r. and f° 401), precisely in the years when A. Aigenler was in his 3rd and 4th year of theology (1664-65 and 1665-66). Aigenler himself appears for the first time as a Prof. Mathematicae (not yet Hebrew) in Ingolstadt in 1666-1667 (f° 426) and 1667-1668 (f° 449) – the Catalogi Breves of the following years are lacking until 1672-73 – and this teaching lasted until Dec. 1671 (see F.X. Freninger, 1872, a° 1666: «Adam Aigenler Math(esis). Heilige Sprache»; J. Schaff, 1912, p. 142 ; 144).  The Cat. Triennales of Germ. Sup., 25, p. 95 n° 7 [1669] summarize his curriculum as follows: «Gramm. 2, Poes. 2; Praef. Congreg. 1; Praefectus Musicae 7; mathesis 2; Sacrae Linguae 2; Magister Philosophiae».

The text of two of Aigenler’s courses in Ingolstadt is preserved as a manuscript, apparently made by one of his students: (1) one is a course on optics, entitled Optica theorico-practica variis selectiorum mathematum problematis illustrata, dictata a R(everendo) P(atr)e Adamo Aigenler S.J.  Ingolstadii 1666 inchoata 3tio Novembr(is) [Munich : UB, Ms. 729, in-4°]), and (2) a second one on astronomy, entitled Astronomia. P(ater) Aigenler. Septem miracula mundi siderei sive tractatus mathematicus de admirandis planetarum, praelectus a Patre Adamo Aigenler S.J. in celeberrima Electorali Universitate Ingolstadiensi, exceptus a Ferdinando Barbier, S.J., anno 1670 [ibid., Cod Ms. 728, 4°; 64ff.]. Whereas the two previous texts – student notes – were ipso facto in manuscript, printed are : Tabula geographico-horologa universalis problematis cosmographicis, astronomicis, geographicis, gnomonicis, geometricis, illustrata (…) et unâ cum succinctâ methodo quaslibet mappas geographicas delineandi (…), a thesis proposed by Johann Heinrich Menrad Vorwaltner and presided over by Aigenler the actual author, pace Sommervogel , 1, col. 92): it offered a method to solve fifty problems of navigation, cartography, and determination of time; acc. to O. Vande Vyver (2001: 27) it was well received and used on the terrain in the Jesuit missions, e.g. by Eusebio Kino, SJ to map California. Acc. to APUG 560, f°  134r. it was reviewed by A. Kircher in a positive way. Also printed was (2) his Hebrew grammar (Dillingen, 1670): Tabulae duodecim, fundamenta Linguae Sanctae unâ cum exercitatione grammatica in Psal. XXXIII et lexico Hebraico-Latino brevi et clarâ methodo complexae […]. Both the thesis and the course refer to the Electoralis (…) Universitas Ingolstadiensis, namely the University of Ingolstadt, also called Academia, founded in 1472 and gradually controlled by Jesuit teachers; among Aigenler’s Jesuit predecessors in the same institute were, e.g., Christopher Scheiner and Jean Baptiste Cysat.

In this period of intense intellectual activities and production Aigenler wrote several application letters for the China mission, starting in the period he studied theology: on 31.03.1665 (ARSI: Fondo Ges., Litt. Indipetae Germ. Sup. 754: 40), 8.02.1666 (ibid., 54), 10.02.1671 (ibid. 77) and 17.11.1671 (ibid., 71); in none of these letters does he use the argument of his mathematical skills to get satisfaction, even when he knew this was since Ricci’s time a strong argument for getting the authorization; on the contrary, in the last letter he even ‘renounces the centers of Chinese astronomy’ («non affecto Sinensia illa astronomorum tribunalia»), which by its precise terminology and the reference to the tribunalia astronomorum in China suggests Aigenler has been well acquainted with the situation/organization of Chinese astronomy.

In his Ingolstadt period, he corresponded also with the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher in the Collegio Romano: see his letters of 4.03 and 17.11.1671 (APUG 560, f° 57r./v. and 86r.). From these letters we learn that he had sent copies of both his Hebrew Grammar and his Problemata mathematica super Tabula Universali (f° 86) to Kircher, who for his positive assessment had in mind to send them for being printed by his ‘house printer’ Janssonius in Amsterdam (f° 134) for a reprint, of which we don’t hear anything more. At the same time, Aigenler considers some self-corrections with regard to Problema XXXI, and with the Tabulae Hebraicae, who apparently counted «multa menda», typographical or substantial ones we don’t know. He reports also on the preparation of a «magna semidiameter seu linea e contro terrae ad extimam mundi superficiem educta[m]» by which one could, in one sole glance («uno intuitu») observe the distances and magnitudes of all the parts of the world, with corrections of the errors made by others’ (f. 57). Reading this, one is struck by Aigenler’s search for an elaborate demonstrational and didactical instrument, an inclination, with particular attention for an ‘easy’ and ‘quick’ consultation («uno intuitu») – which announces his activities in Coimbra.

In addition, he requests Kircher, on 17 Nov. 1671 for a bilingual  ‘Latin-Chinese book’, in order to learn, by comparing the Latin and the Chinese version, some elements of the latter language. His interest in this language – certainly connected to his applications for the China mission – had also been elicited by the presence of a booklet with the Chinese ‘honorary titles of Adam Schall’ («Tituli» or «encomia») in the library of the Jesuit college in Ingolstadt, of which, to his great frustration, he was not able to read one character («apex»). He refers here on the one hand to the samples of the titles (also called: ‘diplomata’) the Chinese Emperor had granted Schall in 1661 (confirmed 1662) and which, after receipt, Schall himself had forwarded from Peking to Ingolstadt, with an autograph dedication to the College («Collegio Engolstadiano (sic) Soc. Jesu. P. Johannes Adamus Schall Coloniensis Soc. Jesu»), now in the UB Munich: 2° P, Or. 12, and which had arrived there on 27 July 1671, only some 4 to 5 months before Aigenler’s letter to Kircher. The Latin-Chinese book, on the other hand, is certainly a copy of one of Intorcetta’s bilingual editions of the Confucian Classics, either Sapientia Sinica or Sinarum Scientia Politico-Moralis, which he had offered to Kircher in Rome. Aigenler had also the intention to learn ‘writing’ Chinese characters by imitating the Chinese characters printed in this bilingual edition with a ‘scalpellus’ (lancet), producing an engraving and hoping it would become useful to Intorcetta, more than making new characters ‘ex nihilo’. Also this is revealing Aigenler’s capacity of ‘self-learning’, when the circumstances were forcing him.

Also in the same period, he made his 4 votes in Ingolstadt on 2.02.1671 (Germ 20, 131-132 : Ad gradum admissi, s.v.)

After his 4th application letter (17.11.1671), he received the permission for China, and left Ingolstadt, together with his Jesuit colleague Beat Amrhyn (Luzern 1632-1673) already one month later, on 21.12.1671. Traveling through Tirol (Hall) to Genoa, they remained a while there, waiting for Intorcetta, the leader of this ‘mission to China’, who was still in Rome until April 1672 . From Genoa Amrhyn and Aigenler wrote, on 13.02.1672 a very interesting letter, now in Munich (BHA, Jes., 595/V/13), in which they describe, with many details, how both German Jesuits were received by members of the most prominent families of Genoa (incl. the Doria and Lomellini family), and received ample material support for the mission.

When they arrived in Lisbon at the end of March 1673, they had missed the yearly fleet (« carreira da India »), which had left the harbour on 1.03.1672 (APUG 560, f° 134 r./v. ; cf. J. Wicki, 1967, 304) and had to stay in Portugal for the next year.

Coimbra

The competences Aigenler had developed and demonstrated in Ingolstadt were very welcome in the Portuguese province, and the Portuguese provincial, Father Emmanuel Monteiro sent Aigenler to the Colégio das Artes in Coimbra:  this happened after 11.04.1672, when Aigenler was still in Lisbon, as he wrote in a third letter to A. Kircher (APUG 560, f° 57r.): his presence in Coimbra certainly filled a ‘lacuna’, as the preceding years no courses of mathematics nor of Hebrew had been offered, due to a lack of appropriate candidates (« utraque cathedra iamdudum vacat, docentium ob penuriam, ut audio » [f° 57r.] ; cf. U. Baldini, 393; Rodrigues, III.1, 195 – 196).

Aigenler arrived in Coimbra immediately after the Easter celebrations («Festa Paschalia»: in 1672 on 17 April). His courses in the Colégio spanned thus the 2nd half of 1672 and the beginning of 1673. Nevertheless his name is not mentioned in the Catalogi Triennales of 1649-1675 (Lus., 45 ; cf. D. Mauricio 1935; Baldini 2004), probably for the same reason as in the case of Verbiest some 17 years earlier, namely because he taught a special class – on mathematics and Hebrew – for Jesuits only («nostros»). Yet his more general courses outside the curriculum received much interest also from non-Jesuit students at the College ; this is reported by Adam Amrhyn, in his letter of 3.07.1672 (Munich : BHA Jes., 595/V/11 ; cf. Jes. 595/XII/1), in a fragment which is unusually telling on the didactical situation in the same Colégio:

Pater Adamus nostros mathesim et Hebraica instruit, sed plerumque ad ianuam accurrunt a Patribus plures, ut ab eo dicta excipiant. Diebus Dominicis selectius aliquod problema exponit, affluente toto Collegio, quod eius laboribus uti mere delectabatur, ita vehementer applaudit / ‘Father Adam taught our fathers mathematics and Hebrew, but  mostly several from the fathers ran to his door, in order to pick up from him (particular) sayings. On Sundays he gives an explanation of a more select theme, while the entire college [i.e. Jesuits and non-Jesuit students] is flocking together, which is applauding as much as it is purely enjoying his efforts.

Nothing of the contents nor of the level of these lessons is known, but that it was rather ‘initial’ we can expect from the general condition of the mathematical instruction in these years in the college, and especially from an indication in an auction catalogue, to be discussed below («a quovis etiam matheseos ignoto»). It is more than questionable whether his aforementioned Ingolstadt courses can give an idea on the level of his Coimbra courses.

On the contrary, we dispose of original information on the didactical instruments Aigenler prepared in Coimbra, for his local classes.

The most important was a ‘rota astronomica’, described by its inventor in AUG 565, f° 95r./v. in his letter to Kircher in the following terms:

Concinnavi hoc anno (i.e. 1673) rotam astronomicam aerique incidi cum sua elucubratiuncula, edenda typis a Collegio Conimbricensi, si R(everendus) P(ater) Provincialis dare licentiam imprimendi potuisset, necnon artem grammaticam linguae Lusitanae, forte in Germania imprimendam. Et hanc et illam commendo R(everendo) P(atri) Assistenti Germaniae, ut eas mittat in Provinciam (Germanicam Ulteriorem), non prius tamen quam R(everentia) V(estr)a easdem, si placet, lustraverit, ac propterea nec obsignatas misi. Dabam Ulyssipone 10 Martii a(nn)o 1673 iamiam soluturus in Indiam. Adameus Aigenler Miss(ionis) Chin(ensis) / I finished this year (1672-1673) a ‘Rota astronomica’ and I have it carved in copper (brass?) plate, together with a short explanation, for being printed in the Coimbra College, if the Provincial had given his authorization. I finished an ‘Ars Grammatica’ of Portuguese to be published in Germany. Both texts I recommend to the Assistant of Germany in Rome, in order to be transmitted to the Province (of Germania Superior), not, however, before Y.R. / ( = A. Kircher) – if he would like it – has analyzed them, and therefore I have sent both items not yet sealed (open). I sent this letter from Lisbon on 10 March 1673’ (APUG 560, f° 95r./v.).

According to his description, the ‘wheel’ was accompanied by a short explanation (“explicatiuncula”), and the topic was astronomical. Both were engraved in Coimbra in a copper plate (“aerique incidi”), waiting to be used to multiply copies on a larger scale, I assume as a didactical tool. Its primary purpose was apparently ‘demonstrational’: viz. to (quickly) demonstrate to his students – or during self-study to quickly find – the mutual position of the main planets; one is reminded of his ‘uno intuitu’ in the method he aimed for with his “magna semidiameter”.

As for the characterization of this ‘rota’: thinking of some other, rare parallels, both old and more recent ones (Golvers, 2016: 9), one can think of  ‘paper’ wheels, of the type of the ‘volvelles’ studied by Nick Kanas (2012, 234-241). A much later reference, however, to be discussed below, uses the participle “constructa” (‘constructed’), and this confirms that the “rota” in Coimbra consisted not only in a paper form, but was indeed also built, for instance in brass (“aes”).

Although Aigenler had the intention that this ‘Rota’, including its textual explanation should be multiplied for his local students, by printing paper copies (“edenda”), which should happen in the Jesuit college of Coimbra – which had indeed its own printing office (Golvers 2019), – this was in fact never realized, as the Portuguese Provincial did not give his imprimatur; this follows from the tense of the verb in the conditional clause (“si dare potuisset”), which expresses a not realized possibility in the past. The reason of this refusal may have been budgetary, even when the etching was apparently already ready (“Concinnavi…aerique incidi”, in the perfect tense). Therefore Aigenler sent it to Rome, to be checked by A. Kircher – who had made before a positive (now apparently lost) ‘censura’  of Aigenler’s Tabula   and to the German assistant, at that time the Flemish Father Charles de Noyelle (1615 – 1686), in order to be printed in the Provincia Germania Superior, in view of German Jesuit students, in the first place future Jesuit missionaries for China.

Another source confirms that, in January 1673, Aigenler made in Coimbra a ‘Rota astronomica’ with its comments, quite unexpectedly after the previous testimony destined to Ingolstadt (either college or University?), more precisely to its ‘Mathematical section’ (“Mathesi Ingolstadiensi transcribit auctor”). At a particular moment, this copy had arrived in the mathematical collection of Count Carlo Archinto (Milan, 1670 – 1732), who had been in 1685 a student at the Ingolstadt Jesuit college (Freninger). After being kept in the private, mathematical library of the same (Mazzucchelli, 955; Blume, 145), and after having been transmitted to his heirs, it was finally presented on the public auction of the rich Archinto family library on 21 March 1863 in Paris. All the information on this copy stems from the auction catalogue of the Maison Silvestre, composed at this occasion (Catalogue 1863, 32; see also Sommervogel, I, col. 94 – 95), where we find mentioned indeed:

Rota astronomica. Ope cuius praecipua astronomiae problemata a quovis etiam matheseos ignoto dicto citius resolvi possunt. Constructa et cum scientifica eiusdem analysi in lucem educta per Patrem Adamum Aigenler SJ, anno 1673, in-4°, non re(lié). Manuscrit autographe. La préface date: Conimbricae, Kal(endis) Januariis anno 1673.

This information – with its literal Latin quotations in a catalogue composed in French certainly derived from the ms. itself – adds some basic details to our information: with regard to the size of the feature (in-4°) and to the aim of the instrument, viz. to serve mathematical beginners (“a quovis matheseos ignoto”), i.e. not only his students in the Coimbra college, but also others (“a quo-vis”: “by whoever”); as for the group of Coimbra students: it is the same group for which some years later Antoine Thomas wrote his Synopsis Mathematica, calling his students of the Coimbra colle: “tirones”: ‘beginners’. As this Aigenler manuscript was signed on 1.01.1673, both were by consequence produced (shortly) before this date, i.e. in the first half of his stay in Coimbra. Finally, as it antedates the aforementioned dispatch of Aigenler to Kircher of two months later, on 10 March 1673 – at that moment in Lisbon –, and as there are no contradictions between this and the former testimony of the author himself, one may assume that the copy sold in Paris in 1863 was the copy Aigenler had in 1673 sent to Kircher, with the explicit request to forward it to the German Asssistant and the Prov. Germania Superior. In this case, both Kircher and De Noyelle apparently have done what Aigenler proposed, by forwarding the feature (rota and explanation) to Ingolstadt, the center of mathematical instruction of the same province, rather than Munich.

As the feature was withheld (“retirée”) at the Paris auction, we lost every trace since that moment.

A second, not mathematical didactical instrument Aigenler produced in Coimbra was a Portuguese grammar. Obviously he must have learned himself quickly Portuguese, as this was the current language in the College’s life, and probably even for the courses, as the position of Latin on the spot was apparently rather low, and its practice rather poor, as Ignatius Hartoghvelt – a Dutch student of the college – reported in 1655 (Golvers, 2019). Therefore, the intended public may have been not his Portuguese students, but future generations of Jesuit novices in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, who prepared themselves for a missionary curriculum in the missions of the padroado, such as China.

This autograph letter – as a kind of ‘cover letter’ accompanying the ‘rota’, the explanation and the ms. of the Portuguese grammar, both not sealed but left open – Aigenler apparently sent just before he left Lisbon for the East Indies to A. Kircher, who kept the letter in his personal archive, and apparently transmitted the ‘rota’ – and probably also the grammar – to the German province.

Reception in China

With this, the story of these Coimbra products made by Aigenler for his students on the spot and for the later generations could have been finished. One other piece of information, however, refers to an afterlife of the ‘Rota’. An almost homonymous work was repeatedly presented, indeed, in the 19th century (between 1821 and 1868) by the auction house of Johann August Gottlob Weigel and successors in Leipzig. The catalogues of these auctions speak of an item, described in the following terms:

Rigenler (sic), Adam. Rota astronomica (…), praecipua astronomiae problemata unico ductu resolvens ad latitudinem 40 graduum. Fol. Ein Himmelatlas, im Kupfer gestochen und auf Chines(ischen) Papier. Bestehend aus 14 Tafeln, abgedruckt alles in Chinesischer Schrift. Fol. 36 Th(alern)”.

It is obvious that *Rigenler is one of the erroneous transcriptions of the author’s name (elsewhere also: Aigenter, by misreading l as t), a misreading which is easy understandable from a handwritten *Aigenler in the title, with initial A- read as R- Also the Latin title will have been copied from the ms. itself, while the rest of the description is in German. The description of the auction catalogue speaks of a celestial atlas; the textual parts consists now of 14 stellar maps referring to the latitude of Peking (“ad latitudinem 40 graduum”) and had also clear didactical purposes. It is also described as a Chinese printing, printed in Chinese (i.e. in the xylographical way?), in-folio, not longer in-4°

From these characteristics it follows undoubtedly that this rota astronomica is another feature than the document produced in Coimbra; on the other hand, it looks like a kind of ‘extended’ version of the Coimbra item. As Aigenler never arrived in China – he died on 26 August 1673 at sea (Lus. 45, 443) – and as he never produced a Chinese text, we have to accept that the original document will be brought to China, either by himself, or by his successor Antoine Thomas, who might have found a copy of it in Coimbra and taken it with him to China. He or one of his succesor-astronomers may have extended and ‘Sinicized’ the original ‘rota’, in accordance to the Jesuit method of taking over the work of colleagues, and continuing it further.

Conclusion

Even when both astronomical pieces are lost now, or were not yet recognized, the Aigenler-episode, although being short, is a convincing testimony of Jesuit engagement in mathematical (and linguistic) didactics in the Colégio das Artes, at the same time informing us about the various groups involved in it (from ‘nostri’ [Jesuit novices / “scholastici”] to laic ‘outsiders’). At the same time it suggests the influence of obstacles, due to local conditions (Jesuit authorites? printers?). More than in the previous case of Verbiest, it becomes evident how the Coimbra college and its instruction was part of a network, with links to Rome and the German Assistancy, linking the mathematical teaching at Ingolstadt College to that of the Colégio – despite the difference of level –, with a clear prospect on the China mission. This link with China will be made more explicit some years later – after a new ‘intermezzo’ without mathematical teaching on the spot – in the work of Antoine Thomas, to be described in another biography.

List of Works

Primary sources

  • APUG : 560 ; 565 ;
  • ARSI : Fondo Gesuitico, 754.
  • ARSI : Germ(ania) Sup(erior) 20 ; 23 ; 24 ; 25 ; 47 ;  
  • ARSI : Lus(itana) 45 ;
  • Munich : BHA, Jesuitica 595.
  • Munich: UB, Ms. 728.
  • Munich: UB, Ms. 729.
  • Munich: UB : 2° P, Or. 12.

Printed works

  • Tabula geographico-horologa universalis problematis cosmographicis, astronomicis, geographicis, gnomonicis, geometricis, illustrata et unâ cum succinctâ methodo quaslibet mappas geographicas delineandi (…), publico certamini proposita in celeberrima, catholica et el<e>ctorali Universitate Ingolstadiensi praeside Adamo Aigenler SJ, Sacrae Linguae et Matheseos Professore Ordinario, Defendente Joanne Henrico Menrado Vorwaltner, Ingolstadiensi Boio, Philosophiae et Matheseos studioso, mense Aug. 1668,
  • Tabulae duodecim, fundamenta Linguae Sanctae unâ cum exercitatione grammatica in Psal. XXXIII et lexico Hebraico-Latino brevi et clarâ methodo complexae, operâ P(atris) Adami Aigenler, e Soc. Jesu, Sacrae Linguae et Matheseos in alma Universitate Ingolstadiensi Professoris Ordinarii, Dillingen, 1670.

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