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Slovenian scientists

Baron Janez Vajkard Valvasor is considered the founder of scientific literature on Slovenian territory. His fundamental, and today still most esteemed work, is The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, which he finished four years before his death. It is a rich encyclopaedic work that was written in German so that more people could understand it, and includes an incredible amount of data on the land and history of the Slovenian people. In this work, with its scientific and technological bibliography completed by many others, Valvasor included numerous inventions, designs and descriptions, which were, in fact, beyond their time. Among them are sketches and a description of the natural mechanism of the intermittent Lake Cerkniško (which also brought him membership of the Royal Society), the design of a tunnel under the Ljubelj mountain pass which he addressed to the Emperor’s office, a method of casting sculpture, and the first maps of Slovenia and neighbouring territories.

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The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola is quite demanding reading. Not because of the German or archaic language, but because of the amount of data included in its 15 volumes totalling 3,532 pages. We quickly realise that the author was a polymath. He had a great knowledge of numerous details of particular sciences (historiography, geography, and generally in the arts and natural sciences), which is evident from the Glory itself. In addition, he not only recorded stories and historical events, but also successfully explored and presented new knowledge. In this respect, he also turned away from alchemy, although he states that he was at first even involved in certain experiments that failed.
This was a period when, due to various discoveries, alchemy had to make way for advancing natural science. It was a time when, in addition to alchemy, a mysterious, occult, but at the same time quite frequent, theme was witchcraft. Some people then still believed in the existence of witches. Valvasor was not among them. He explained the behaviour of 'witches' as resulting from certain drugs which they took. His studies, travels and scientific explanation of the world demanded a lot of time, energy and money.
The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, his life work, which secured his place in history, finally exhausted him both physically and financially. Because of his love for science, exploration and writing, he had to sell off all his property, including Črni potok Castle, Bogenšperk near Litija, and Lichtenberg. From today's perspective it is perhaps the most sad that Valvasor had to sell his extensive book and graphics collection (1,530 notebooks) to the Bishop of Zagreb. The story of an exceptional rise which is granted only to the select few was followed by impoverishment at the end of his life. The Slovenian polymath, inventor and writer died in Krško, in mid-September 1693. Until the replacement of the tolar, his image, with a pair of compasses and a topographical background, adorned the twenty tolar note. Since 1903, a commemorative bronze statue double his size and weighing one and a half tonnes has stood in front of the National Museum.


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