The Partnership of the Murderer Who Invented the Movies & the Robber Baron Who Built the Railroads

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Edward Ball is an American author who has written multiple works on topics such as history and biography. He is best known for works that explore the complex past of his family, these family members were major rice planters and slaveholders in South Carolina for nearly 300 years. One of his more well known works is based around an African-American family, descended from one member of this family and an enslaved woman, whose members became successful artists and musicians in the Jazz Age.

The Ball Family Slaveholder Index (BFSI) reports that between 1698 and 1865, six generations of the Ball family “owned more than twenty rice plantations in Lowcountry South Carolina and enslaved nearly 4,000 Africans and African Americans.”[1] Edward Ball, who completed his MA in 1984, worked as a free-lance journalist before he began researching and writing about his family’s history of slaveholding.

His books include Slaves in the Family (1998), which won a National Book Award. In Slaves in the Family, he described his great-great grandfather, Isaac Ball (1785-1825), a fifth generation member of the Ball family of slaveholders, who inherited the Comingtee plantation, near Charleston and owned 571 enslaved people.[1]

He was also recognized for his Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy (2020). In the Life of a Klansman: A Family History in White Supremacy, he told about his maternal great-great-grandfather, Constant Lecorgne (1832 -n.d. ). At one time, he was officially classified as “colored”, which denoted that he was a mulatto or a mixed race person at the time. Having European ancestors, he changed his name and passed as white. He became an “embittered racist.”[2][3]

A Man of Misconceptions: The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change is a biography written by John Glassie about Athanasius Kircher, a 17th-century German Jesuit scholar, scientist, author, and inventor. Published by Riverhead Books in 2012, it is regarded by The New York Times as the first general-interest biography of Kircher, who has experienced a resurgence of academic attention in recent decades.[1]

The book traces Kircher’s life from his birth in 1602 in Germany through his rise as a scholar at the Jesuit Collegio Romano to the decline of his reputation and his death in Rome in 1680. After Kircher arrived in Rome in 1633, a few months after the Galileo trial, he pursued myriad interests, authoring more than thirty books[2] on such subjects as optics, magnetism, music, medicine, and mathematics, and developing a collection of natural specimens and curiosities into a well known Cabinet of Curiosities or early modern museum.[3] He also worked with Gianlorenzo Bernini on his Fountain of the Four Rivers in the Piazza Navona[4] and labored for many years on the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The book places Kircher’s work and his interest in natural magic and mysticism within the context of the Scientific Revolution. Glassie draws connections between Kircher and 17th-century figures such as René Descartes,[5] Gottfried Leibniz,[6] and Isaac Newton.[7] He also illustrates later influences on Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, Madame Blavatsky, and Marcel Duchamp.[8]

Reviews have appeared in The New York Times,[1] The New York Times Book Review,[9] The New Yorker,[10] The Wall Street Journal,[11] The Nation,[12] The Daily Beast[13] and a number of other media outlets. Glassie has appeared on the NPR shows All Things Considered[14] and Science Friday[15] as well as on C-SPAN2’s BookTV[16] to discuss the biography. A Man of Misconceptions was selected as a New York Times Book Review “Editor’s Choice.”[17] It was named one of the best science books of 2012 by Jennifer Ouellette, a writer for Scientific American,[18] and included in an Atlantic Wire article “The Books We Loved in 2012.”[19]

Athanasius Kircher (2 May 1602 – 27 November 1680)[1] was a German Jesuit scholar and polymath who published around 40 major works, most notably in the fields of comparative religion, geology, and medicine. Kircher has been compared to fellow Jesuit Roger Joseph Boscovich and to Leonardo da Vinci for his enormous range of interests, and has been honoured with the title “Master of a Hundred Arts”.[2] He taught for more than 40 years at the Roman College, where he set up a wunderkammer. A resurgence of interest in Kircher has occurred within the scholarly community in recent decades.

Kircher claimed to have deciphered the hieroglyphic writing of the ancient Egyptian language, but most of his assumptions and translations in this field were later found to be incorrect.

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