Also "Albertus Magnus."
From Catholic Encyclopedia 1913:
Known as Albert the Great; scientist, philosopher, and theologian, born c. 1206; died at Cologne, 15 November 1280. He is called "the Great", and "Doctor Universalis" (Universal Doctor), in recognition of his extraordinary genius and extensive knowledge, for he was proficient in every branch of learning cultivated in his day, and surpassed all his contemporaries, except perhaps Roger Bacon (1214-94), in the knowledge of nature. Ulrich Engelbert, a contemporary, calls him the wonder and the miracle of his age: "Vir in omni scientia adeo divinus, ut nostri temporis stupor et miraculum congrue vocari possit" (De summo bono, tr. III, iv).
Albert, eldest son of the Count of Bollstädt, was born at Lauingen, Swabia, in the year 1205 or 1206, though many historians give it as 1193. Nothing certain is known of his primary or preparatory education, which was received either under the paternal roof or in a school of the neighbourhood. As a youth he was sent to pursue his studies at the University of Padua; that city being chosen either because his uncle resided there, or because Padua was famous for its culture of the liberal arts, for which the young Swabian had a special predilection. The date of this journey to Padua cannot be accurately determined. In the year 1223 he joined the Order of St. Dominic, being attracted by the preaching of Blessed Jordan of Saxony second Master General of the Order. Historians do not tell us whether Albert's studies were continued at Padua, Bologna, Paris, or Cologne. After completing his studies he taught theology at Hildesheim, Freiburg (Breisgau), Ratisbon, Strasburg, and Cologne. He was in the convent of Cologne, interpreting Peter Lombard's "Book of the Sentences", when, in 1245, he was ordered to repair to Paris. There he received the Doctor's degree in the university which, above all others, was celebrated as a school of theology. It was during this period of reaching at Cologne and Paris that he counted amongst his hearers St. Thomas Aquinas, then a silent, thoughtful youth, whose genius he recognized and whose future greatness he foretold. The disciple accompanied his master to Paris in 1245, and returned with him, in 1248, to the new Studium Generale of Cologne, in which Albert was appointed Regent, whilst Thomas became second professor and Magister Studentium (Master of Students). In 1254 Albert was elected Provincial of his Order in Germany. He journeyed to Rome in 1256, to defend the Mendicant Orders against the attacks of William of St. Amour, whose book, "De novissimis temporum periculis", was condemned by Pope Alexander IV, on 5 October, 1256. During his sojourn in Rome Albert filled the office of Master of the Sacred Palace (instituted in the time of St. Dominic), and preached on the Gospel of St. John and the Canonical Epistles. He resigned the office of Provincial in 1257 in order to devote himself to study and to teaching. At the General Chapter of the Dominicans held at Valenciennes in 1250, with St. Thomas Aquinas and Peter of Tarentasia (afterwards Pope Innocent V), he drew up rules for the direction of studies, and for determining the system of graduation, in the Order. In the year 1260 he was appointed Bishop of Ratisbon. Humbert de Romanis, Master General of the Dominicans, being loath to lose the services of the great Master, endeavoured to prevent the nomination, but was unsuccessful. Albert governed the diocese until 1262, when, upon the acceptance of his resignation, he voluntarily resumed the duties of a professor in the Studium at Cologne. In the year 1270 he sent a memoir to Paris to aid St. Thomas in combating Siger de Brabant and the Averroists. This was his second special treatise against the Arabian commentator, the first having been written in 1256, under the title "De Unitate Intellectus Contra Averroem". He was called by Pope Gregory X to attend the Council of Lyons (1274) in the deliberations of which he took an active part. The announcement of the death of St. Thomas at Fossa Nuova, as he was proceeding to the Council, was a heavy blow to Albert, and he declared that "The Light of the Church" had been extinguished. It was but natural that he should have grown to love his distinguished, saintly pupil, and it is said that ever afterwards he could not restrain his tears whenever the name of St. Thomas was mentioned. Something of his old vigour and spirit returned in 1277 when it was announced that Stephen Tempier and others wished to condemn the writings of St. Thomas, on the plea that they were too favourable to the unbelieving philosophers, and he journeyed to Paris to defend the memory of his disciple. Some time after 1278 (in which year he drew up his testament) he suffered a lapse of memory; his strong mind gradually became clouded; his body, weakened by vigils, austerities, and manifold labours, sank under the weight of years. He was beatified by Pope Gregory XV in 1622; his feast is celebrated on the 15th of November. The Bishops of Germany, assembled at Fulda in September, 1872, sent to the Holy See a petition for his canonization; he was finally canonized in 1931.
Two editions of Albert's complete works (Opera Omnia) have been published; one at Lyons in 1651, in twenty-one folio volumes, edited by Father Peter Jammy, O.P., the other at Paris (Louis Vivès), 1890-99, in thirty-eight quarto volumes, published under the direction of the Abbé Auguste Borgnet, of the diocese of Reims. Paul von Loë gives the chronology of Albert's writings the "Analecta Bollandiada" (De Vita et scriptis B. Alb. Mag., XIX, XX, and XXI). The logical order is given by P. Mandonnet, O.P., in Vacant's "Dictionnaire de théologie catholique". The following list indicates the subjects of the various treatises, the numbers referring to the volumes of Borgnet's edition. Logic: seven treatises (I. 2). Physical Sciences: "Physicorum" (3); "De Coelo et Mundo", "De Generatione et Corruptione". "Meteororum" (4); "Mineralium" (5); "De Natura locorum", " De passionibus aeris" (9). Biological: "De vegetabilibus et plantis" (10) " De animalibus" (11-12); "De motibus animalium", "De nutrimento et nutribili", "De aetate", "De morte et vita", "De spiritu et respiratione" (9). Psychological: "De Anima" (5); "De sensu et sensato", "De Memoria, et reminiscentia", "De somno et vigilia", "De natura et origine animae", "De intellectu et intelligibili", "De unitate intellectus" (9). The foregoing subjects, with the exception of Logic, are treated compendiously in the "Philosophia pauperum" (5). Moral and Political: "Ethicorum" (7); "Politocorum (8). Metaphysical: "Metaphysicorum" (6); "De causis et processu universitatis" (10). Theological: "Commentary on the works of Denis the Aereopagite" (14); "Commentary on the Sentences of the Lombard" (25-30); "Summa Theologiae" (31-33); "Summa de creaturis" (34-35); "De sacramento Eucharistiae" (38); "Super evangelium missus est" (37). Exegetical: "Commentaries on the Psalms and Prophets" (15-19); "Commentaries on the Gospels" (20-24); "On the Apocalypse" (38). Sermons (13). The "Quindecim problemata contra Averroistas" was edited by Mandonnet in his "Siger de Brabant" (Freiburg, 1899). The authenticity of the following works is not established: "De apprehensione" (5); "Speculum astronomicum" (5); "De alchimia" (38); Scriptum super arborem Aristotelis" (38); "Paradisus animae" (37); "Liber de Adhaerendo Deo" (37); "De Laudibus B. Virginis" (36); "Biblia Mariana" (37).
The influence exerted by Albert on the scholars of his own day and on those of subsequent ages was naturally great. His fame is due in part to the fact that he was the forerunner, the guide and master of St. Thomas Aquinas, but he was great in his own name, his claim to distinction being recognized by his contemporaries and by posterity. It is remarkable that this friar of the Middle Ages, in the midst of his many duties as a religious, as provincial of his order, as bishop and papal legate, as preacher of a crusade, and while making many laborious journeys from Cologne to Paris and Rome, and frequent excursions into different parts of Germany, should have been able to compose a veritable encyclopedia, containing scientific treatises on almost every subject, and displaying an insight into nature and a knowledge of theology which surprised his contemporaries and still excites the admiration of learned men in our own times. He was, in truth, a Doctor Universalis. Of him it in justly be said: Nil tetigit quod non ornavit; and there is no exaggeration in the praises of the modern critic who wrote: "Whether we consider him as a theologian or as a philosopher, Albert was undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary men of his age; I might say, one of the most wonderful men of genius who appeared in past times" (Jourdain, Recherches Critiques). Philosophy, in the days of Albert, was a general science embracing everything that could be known by the natural powers of the mind; physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. In his writings we do not, it is true, find the distinction between the sciences and philosophy which recent usage makes. It will, however, be convenient to consider his skill in the experimental sciences, his influence on scholastic philosophy, his theology.
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St. Albert the Great, Doctor of the Church and Bishop of Regensburg, Germany15-Nov
Also "Albertus Magnus."
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