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Sendivogius [Sedzimir, Sedziwoj, Sdziwj z Skrska], Michael

1. Dates
Born: Skorsko or Lukawica, Poland, 2 Feb 1566
Died: Cravar, Silesia, Jun [?] 1636
Dateinfo: Both Dates Uncertain
Lifespan: 70 Note that Pollak indicates that the year of birth is uncertain--either 1556 or 1566. Pollak and Brückner claim he died in 1646. The generally accepted dates, however, are 1566-1636.
2. Father
Occupation: Aristocrat
His parents, Jacob Sedizimir and Catherine Pelsz Rogowska, were both of noble families and had a small estate near Nowy Sacz, in the Cracow district.
They are said to have been wealthy.
3. Nationality
Birth: Skorsko or Lukawica, Poland
Career: Prague, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Germany
Death: Cravar, Silesia
4. Education
Schooling: Leipzig, Vienna
No confirmed primary or secondary education; probably stuied in a monastic school in Krakow.
1590, entered the University of Leipzig. In this year he met Alexander Seton in Germany.
1591, moved to the University of Vienna.
No mention of a B.A.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic (assumed).
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Alchemy
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage, Government, Personal Means
Secondary: Merchant
1593, entered the service of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague as a courier and later served simultaneuosly as secretary to the Polish King Sigismund III.
1594, he married Veronica Stieber, a wealthy widow.
In 1595 his name appears on the rolls of the University of Altdorf, probably as an imperial official rather than as a student. He may also have visited Rostock, Ingolstadt, and Cambridge.
Toward the end of the 1590s Sendivogius became increasingly influential at court. In 1597, he bought the Fumberg estate from the widow of the English Alchemist Edward Kelley. He also owned two other estates (Lukawic and Lhota). In 1598, he was named privy councillor and was granted such large sums of money that he soon became one of Bohemia's most significant landowners.
1597-8, on order from Rudolph II, he travelled to the East, visiting Greece et al.
In 1599, he left Prague after having been imprisoned for swindling his patron, the rich Merchant Koralek. He returned to Poland, where Wolski introduced him to King Sigismund III. He was recalled to Prague in 1602 and named privy councillor.
In 1605, while on a diplomatic mission to France, to act as an intercessor for the release of Seton from a Saxon prison, he was lured to the court of Duke Friedrich of Wuerttemberg at Stuttgart. He was imprisoned, but released.
After a visit to Cologne (1607), he returned to Poland, where he became a courtier to Queen Constantia, the second wife of Sigismund III. With crown marshall Mikolaj Wolski he established many smithies and iron and brass foundries in Krzepice, which later became a leading industrial center. This was undoubtedly lucrative, for he soon became the owner of several houses in Cracow. (I list this under Merchant.)
Around 1619, he transferred allegiance to Emperor Ferdinand II, for whom he established lead foundries in Silesia. In 1626 he was appointed privy councillor at a salary of 500 Fl. (later 1000 Fl.), and in 1631, as compensation for long-unpaid salaries, he received the estates of Cravar and Kounty in Crnow county, Moravia.
8. Patronage
Types: Merchant, Court Official, Aristrocrat, Government Official
Upon his arrival in Prague Sendivogius stayed with the physician Nikolaus Loew von Loewenstein, through whom he met the patrician merchant Ludwig Koralek von Teschin, who was an early patron. Sendivogius began his alchemical work in Koralek's own laboratory. Koralek lent Sendivogius 5600 "Schock meissnisch" (which I presume was some form of currency from Meissen) around 1595. Sendivogius still owed 2000 Schock in 1599. Sendivogius was accused of involvement in Koralek's death in 1599.
He served Emperor Rudolf II and Sigismund III simultaneously in the 1590s. He became a favorite and trusted friend of Rudolf II through his alchemical work. In 1599, he was accused before the municipal court of Prague of being responsible for the death of a friend and fellow alchemist, Koralek, and sentenced to prison. After intervention from Sigismund III and/or Herrn von Hasenberg, a patron of alchemists, he was released. Rudolf's inaction in getting him out of prison soured him, and he left Prague.
He was lured to the court of Duke Friedrich of Wuerttemberg at Stuttgart in 1605, who had noticed Sendivogius' claim in De lapide philosophorum (1604) to possess the secret of the philosopher's stone. The Duke put Sendivogius in prison. Sigismund III, Rudolf II, and several German princes intervened and Friedrich grew alarmed. He arranged for Sendivogius to escape and put the blame on his court alchemist, Heinrich Muehlenfells, who was condemned to die.
Also related to his patronage by the Polish King Sigismund III: he was courtier to Queen Constantia, Sigismund III's second wife.
Already in 1575, in Poland, he had the support of Mikolaj Wolski, then Starost (a kind of royal sheriff, often in charge of district courts) of Krzepice (near Czestochowa), and later Crown Marshall.
In 1603, Sendivogius resumed alchemical work at Krzepice with continued support from Wolski and Jerzy Mniszek, the Wojewod (Palatine) of Skandomeirz. (Mniszek was famous for his role in sponsoring the false Dmitri's efforts to claim the throne of Muscovy.)
1619, he transferred allegiance back to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor, now Ferdinand II, to whom he was appointed privy councillor (1626) and from whom he received two estates (1631).
According to the D.S.B., "He was undoubtedly a political double agent."
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Metallurgy
Sendivogius was responsible for establishing foundries in Krzepice and Silesia, and he evidently made a fair amount of money out of it. He also established lead foundries in Silesia.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Connections: His friends included the alchemists Alexander Seton, Joachim Tancke, Oswald Croll, J. Orthel, J. Kapr von Kaprstein, V. Lavinus, R. Egli, Martin Ruland, Michael Maier, and Ludwig Koralek. In 1615-16 he visited Johannes Hartmann's laboratory at Marburg.
  1. J. Svatek, Culturhistorischen Bilder aus Boehmen (Vienna, 1879), pp. 78-84. [DB200.5.S88]
  2. Aledsander Brückner, Dzieje Kultury Polskiej, vol. II Polska u Szczytu Potegi. 2nd ed. (Wydawnictwo J. Przeworskiego: Warszawa, 1939), p. 230. Roman Pollack, Bibliografia literatury polskiej. Pismiennictwo staropolskie. Warsaw: Panstwowy Instytut Wydawn., 1963-5, III: 229-31.
  3. Bogdan Suchodolski, gen. ed., Historia Nauki Polskiej, 3 vols. Wroclaw: Zaklad Narodowy imienia ossolinskich wydawnictwo Polskiej Akademii Nauk, 1970. Vol. 1: Sredniowiecze, by Pawel Czartoryski and Odrodzenie by Pawel Rybicki. Vol. 2 Barok: by Henryk Barycz and Oswiecenie by Kazimierz Opalek.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. H. Barycz, "Rozwoj nauki w Polsce w dobie Odrodzenie," Odrodzenie w Polsce. Materialy Sesji Nauk. PAN 25-30 Pazdziernika 1953 r. T. 2: Historia Nauki. Cz. 1 w-wa 1956 pp. 61-2; 135-6. Osob. pt. Dzieje nauki w Polsce w epoce Odrodzenia.
  2. R. Bugaj, W poszukiwaniu kamienia filozoficznego. O Michale Sedziwojo, najslnniejszym alchemiku polskim. (Warsaw, 1957).
  3. T. Estreicher, "Z dziejow alchemii," Przeg. Powszechny, 1927 t.
  4. 174 s. 178-83.
  5. C. Lechicki, Mecenat Zyg. III, (Warsaw, 1932).
  6. W. Hubicki, "The True Life of Michael Sendivogius," Actes du XI Congres international d'histoire des sciences, 4 (Warsaw, 1965), 31-5.) A.Z. Szydlo, The Life and Work of Michael Sendivogius, Ph.D. thesis University College, London Univ., 1992.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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©1995 Al Van Helden
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