Nicholas of Cusa


Nicholas of Cusa
Nicholas of Cusa [kyo͞o′sə, kyo͞o′zə]
1401-64; Ger. cardinal, philosopher, & mathematician

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born 1401, Kues, Trier
died Aug. 11, 1464, Todi, Papal States

German cardinal, mathematician, scientist, and philosopher.

Ordained a priest in 1440, he was made a cardinal in Italy and became bishop there in 1450. In On Catholic Concordance (1433), he supported the supremacy of the general councils of the church over the papacy's authority (see conciliar movement). However, after witnessing the failure of the Council of Basel to unify the church or enact reform, he reversed his position and became an ardent supporter of the pope. Skilled in nearly every branch of learning, he anticipated the work of Nicolaus Copernicus by discerning a movement in the universe that did not centre on the Earth. He also carried out botanical experiments and collected ancient manuscripts. In his discourse On Learned Ignorance (1440), he described the learned man as one who is aware of his own ignorance.

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▪ Christian scholar
German  Nikolaus Von Cusa,  Latin  Nicolaus Cusanus 
born 1401, Kues, Trier
died Aug. 11, 1464, Todi, Papal States

      cardinal, mathematician, scholar, experimental scientist, and influential philosopher who stressed the incomplete nature of man's knowledge of God and of the universe.

      At the Council of Basel (Basel, Council of) in 1432, he gained recognition for his opposition to the candidate put forward by Pope Eugenius IV for the archbishopric of Trier. To his colleagues at the council he dedicated De concordantia catholica (1433; “On Catholic Concordance”), in which he expressed support for the supremacy of the general councils of the church over the authority of the papacy. In the same work he discussed the harmony of the church, drawing a pattern for priestly concord from his knowledge of the order of the heavens. By 1437, however, finding the council unsuccessful in preserving church unity and enacting needed reforms, Nicholas reversed his position and became one of Eugenius' most ardent followers. Ordained a priest about 1440, Cusa was made a cardinal in Brixen (Bressanone), Italy, by Pope Nicholas V and in 1450 was elevated to bishop there. For two years Cusa served as Nicholas' legate to Germany, after which he began to serve full-time as bishop of Brixen.

      A model of the “Renaissance man” because of his disciplined and varied learning, Cusa was skilled in theology, mathematics, philosophy, science, and the arts. In De docta ignorantia (1440; “On Learned Ignorance”) he described the learned man as one who is aware of his own ignorance. In this and other works he typically borrowed symbols from geometry to demonstrate his points, as in his comparison of man's search for truth to the task of converting a square into a circle.

      Among Cusa's other interests were diagnostic medicine and applied science. He emphasized knowledge through experimentation and anticipated the work of the astronomer Copernicus by discerning a movement in the universe that did not centre in the Earth, although the Earth contributed to that movement. Cusa's study of plant growth, from which he concluded that plants absorb nourishment from the air, was the first modern formal experiment in biology and the first proof that air has weight. Numerous other developments, including a map of Europe, can also be traced to Cusa. A manuscript collector who recovered a dozen lost comedies by the Roman writer Plautus, he left an extensive library that remains a centre of scholarly activity in the hospital he founded and completed at his birthplace in 1458.

Additional Reading
H. Bett, Nicholas of Cusa (1932); K.H. Volkmann-Schluck, Nicolaus Cusanus (1957); P.E. Sigmund, Nicholas of Cusa and Medieval Political Thought (1963).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nicholas of Cusa — • Lengthy article on the life and writings of the fifteenth century canon lawyer, diplomat, and philosopher Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Nicholas of Cusa     Nicholas of Cusa …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Nicholas of Cusa — [kyo͞o′sə, kyo͞o′zə] 1401 64; Ger. cardinal, philosopher, & mathematician …   English World dictionary

  • Nicholas of Cusa — Cusanus redirects here. For the lunar crater, see Cusanus (crater). Nicholas of Cusa Nicholas of Cusa, by Master of the Life of the Virgin Full name Nicholas of Cusa Other names Nicolaus Chrypffs , Nicholas of Kues …   Wikipedia

  • Nicholas of Cusa — Nikolaus von Kues Nikolaus von Kues, latinisiert Nicolaus Cusanus oder Nicolaus de Cusa (* 1401 in Kues an der Mosel, heute Bernkastel Kues; † 11. August 1464 in Todi, Umbrien) war ein berühmter, universal gebildeter deutscher Philosoph, Theologe …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Nicholas of Cusa — (1401–64)    Cardinal and Philosopher.    Nicholas was born in Kues, Germany and was educated in Heidelberg, Prague and Cologne. He attended the Council of Basle and was created a Cardinal in 1448. As Bishop of Brisen, he served as papal legate… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Nicholas of Cusa — biographical name 1401 1464 German cardinal, mathematician, & philosopher …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Nicholas of Cusa — (1401 1464)    German philosopher, theolo gian, mathematician, church reformer, and cardinal. Born Niklas Krebs at Kues in western Germany, he received the nickname Cu sanus from the Latin name of his native town. He was educated at Heidelberg,… …   Historical Dictionary of Renaissance

  • Nicholas of Cusa — (1401–1464) German cardinal, and Bishop of Brixen. His major work, De Docta Ignorantia (‘Of Learned Ignorance’, 1440) espouses a ‘negative theology’, in which a Neoplatonic conception of the cosmos renders its nature entirely unknowable. He is… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Nicholas of Cusa — /ˈkjuzə/ (say kyoohzuh) noun 1401–64, German cardinal, philosopher and scientist …   Australian English dictionary

  • Cusanus, Nicolaus (Nicholas of Cusa) — See Renaissance philosophy outside Italy …   History of philosophy


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