Danubia: how many bricks would it take to build the Tower of Babel?

31 August 2013

Read this passage from Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe by Simon Winder to see the answer seventeenth century polymath Athanasius Kircher came up with.

Athanasius Kircher was a seventeenth century polymath of scarcely credible range who calculated the number of bricks that would be needed to build the tower of Babel. Read this passage from Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe by Simon Winder to see the answer he came up with. 

Tower of Babel (c) Buridan

Image (c) Buridan / flickr.com

Athanasius Kircher was a German who died in 1680 […] A polymath of scarcely credible range, a prolific author and owner of a museum in Rome, Kircher managed in modern scientific terms to be wrong about almost every subject he turned his attention to. […]

But it is in his work on the Tower of Babel that everything comes to a head and we are left wondering what is a practical joke and what is just spectacularly misapplied effort. He became immersed in zany thoughts about the full practical implications of the frustratingly fleeting mention of the Tower in the Bible. He assumed it was built by Nimrod (on no evidence) and that the Tower’s reaching ‘heaven’ meant ‘the moon’. He then did some calculations to prove that this was never practical, as the Earth did not contain enough material for bricks to build such a structure. Even if it were technically possible to build such a tower, Kircher carefully established that it would need 374,731,250,000,000 bricks, with such further headaches as the horses needing eight hundred years to haul them up to the top even at a gallop.

There are lots more strange facts from Habsburg Europe on our Danubia Thinglink

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