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Acosta, José De

Acosta, José De

(b. Medina del Campo, Spain, 1539; d. Salamanca, Spain, 15 February 1600)

geography.

Acosta was one of the first Europeans to provide a detailed image of the physical and human geography of Latin America; his studies of the Indian civilizations of the New World were a major source of information for several centuries. At the age of fifteen he entered the Jesuit order in his native city and underwent rigorous theological and literary training. He early displayed a strong interest in the New World, and although he was offered a chair of theology in Rome, he asked to be sent to the Americas. He left Spain in 1570 and sailed via Panama to Peru, where he remained for fourteen years. For many years Acosta lived at the Jesuit college on the shore of Lake Titicaca and learned enough of both Aymara and Quechua to produce a trilingual catechism (1583). After acting as historian of the third council of the church at Lima (1582–1583), he embarked for Mexico, where he spent three years. Next he went to Rome, and then to Spain, where he filled several important posts for the Jesuits. He died while serving as rector of the Jesuit college of Salamanca.

Acosta was a prolific writer on both sacred and profane subjects, but his most important scientific work was Historia natural y moral de las Indias. It provides firsthand observations on such diverse phenomena as altitude sickness, the nature and uses of coca, and the crops farm techniques, and domesticated animals of America. Equally important are his descriptions of Inca and Aztec history, religious observances, folk customs, and statecraft. He was the first to describe in detail Mexican ideograms and Peruvian quipu, and the Inca postal system. He may, indeed, be called the first of the true Americanists.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Original Works. Acosta’s most important work on the Americas was Historia natural y moral de las Indias, en que se tratan las cosas mds notables del cielo, y elementos, metales, plantes y animales dellas (Seville, 1590). The sole English trans., by Edward Grimston, is The Natural and Moral History of the Indies...(London, 1604), repr. with notes and intro. by C. R. Markham as Vols. LX and LXI of the Hakluyt Society Series (London, 1880).

II. Secondary Literature. References to Acosta’s writings may be found in Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo, La ciencia española, III (Madrid, 1887); and Carlos Sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, I (Paris, 1890), cols. 31–38.

George Kish

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Acosta, José de

José de Acosta (hōsā´ ŧħā äkō´stä), c.1539–1600, Spanish Jesuit missionary to Peru. He wrote a well-known history of the Spanish colonial period, The Natural and Moral History of the Indies (1590; tr. 1604, 1880, repr. 1970).

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"Acosta, José de." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Acosta, José de." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/acosta-jose-de