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Finding Atlantis: A True Story of Genius, Madness, and an Extraordinary Quest for a Lost World Hardcover – June 7, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Few lives are as sadly instructive as that of the dreamer who, by reaching for the stars, falls crashing to earth. Such is the tale of a 17th-century Swedish polymath and gifted eccentric, Olof Rudbeck. Univeristy of Kentucky historian King relates how Rudbeck, trained in his youth as physician (he discovered the lymphatic glands), mastered fields as diverse as architecture, botany, shipbuilding, etymology, musical composition and mythology, among others. It was an ancient Norse saga that set him on the path to what he believed would lead to his greatest triumph. Enchanted by circumstantial evidence and supported by his own breathtakingly inventive archeological and etymological research, Rudbeck in 1679 astonished his Uppsala University colleagues with the announcement that he had discovered Atlantis—in Old Uppsala. Fiercely disputatious and uncompromising when it came to his own genius, Rudbeck had previously poisonously offended many influential colleagues; his work was ridiculed and he died in obscurity. King is marvelous at elaborating Rudbeck's theories and his heroic defense against charges of forgery and "foul-ugly fraud." One wishes, however, that King had dealt definitely with the forgery charges. His trust in his own subject despite the evidence is honorable but perhaps misplaced. Still, King tells his tale with the pace and appeal of a classic whodunit. 20 b&w illus. Agent, Suzanne Gluck.(June 14)

From Booklist

Center stage in this history of a history book is the rollicking, fantastical figure of Olof Rudbeck (1630-1702). After reading Rudbeck's monumental Atlantica (1679), historian King unpacks its plausible but reckless chains of reasoning and reassembles the mass into a marvelous account of the Swedish scholar's obsessions. Rudbeck was a professor of medicine at Uppsala University, and his restless mind seems to have seldom been idle. Rudbeck switched from physiology, in which he made his name as discoverer of the lymphatic system, to the study of the Viking sagas, just then coming to scholarly light. Connecting the sagas with the gods of Norse and Greek mythology, and with Plato's lost continent of Atlantis, Rudbeck proposed an astounding theory: Atlantis was located in Sweden! Odd though the idea was, King explains that Rudbeck's protomodern research methods in archaeology and etymology gained acceptance for his theory. Restoring this colorful eccentric to life, King reveals his talent for narrative flow and portraiture in a biography that will thoroughly inveigle history readers. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony (June 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400047528
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400047529
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.1 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,565,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ricky Hunter on July 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Olof Rudbeck was some kind of seventeenth century wonderful, according to author David King in Finding Atlantis, A True Story of Genius, Madness, and an Extraordinary Quest for a Lost World. Rudbeck comes across more self-delusional than either the mad or genius of the subtitle but either way it is an interesting story. He found Atlantis in ancient Sweden, which also became the birthplace for all language, mythology, and culture known throughout classical Europe (and later stretched to the Indus River itself by Rudbeck). There was nothing this man could not interpret to meet his needs for fitting into a particular hypothesis. At times, the reader may even feel a little embarassed for Rudbeck and a little shocked that less scholars were not laughing at him. The author gives a good glimpse into post Renaissance, pre-Enlightenment Sweden, a country not much discussed in most histories. Sweden was at the height of its power and maybe from so high up it was easy to imagine that everything glorious that was once existed there first. An interesting footnote in history.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1679 one Olof Rudbeck succeeded in tracing a range of disparate legends to an ancient lost civilization which once thrived north of his native Sweden: he'd spend the last thirty years of his life seeking evidence of his theory. Finding Atlantis: A True Story Of Genius, Madness, And An Extraordinary Quest For A Lost World charts his extraordinary ability to chase down the most diverse clues in his search for the truth. Chapters probe the adventures he had tracing lends of the lost Atlantis, the publication of his 2,500-page history, and his research in uncertain times. Reading at times with the drama of a novel, Finding Atlantis is charged with action and even intrigue - as well as historical accuracy, and remains the only biography of Olof to probe his theories in detail.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. I was engrossed in this true story from the minute I started reading until the last page. Olaf Rudbeck was a true visionary. A completely original thinker bogged down in the petty rivalries and vendettas of conventional academia. Everything about this story, although it takes place during the 1600's in Sweden, is also completely contemporary. It is a timeless tale of a great person at odds with the rigid thinking all around him. Yet Rudbeck triumphed. No matter what his foes threw at him, he came back stronger and better every time. His essential theory is that ancient Sweden was the location of Plato's story of Atlantis. Rudbeck used astoundingly original dating methods as well as a kind of finely attuned awareness one associates with real genius, to back up his ideas. He undoubtedly found remnants of a lost, high civilization. While doing so, he added immeasurably to our overall knowledge of ancient cultures and historical Sweden, as well as giving us new ways to date ancient sites. Did he actually find Atlantis? My major gripe with David King is that at the end of the book he sort of slams or at least somewhat discredits, Rudbeck's theories. Perhaps at the time he wrote it, he was afraid of the same kind of criticism that Rudbeck himself underwent. King is a wonderful writer. Not a boring page in the book. It is delightful, informative and highly readable for anyone. But he missed an opportunity however, to have some the courage Mr. Rudbeck displayed. While he may or may not have found Atlantis, Rudbeck most certainly found a culture directly related to it. He found Hyperborea which was probably either a precursor to, or an off-shoot of Atlantis.Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition
Kudos to David King for bringing us the fascinating, bizarre tale of Olof Rudbeck, who took Swedish patriotism to dizzying extremes. I must say, Rudbeck's theories, his reasoning and conclusions are strangely convincing, and King does a terrific job of laying them out for us. I couldn't help but think, however, that what would have been a few interesting chapters of a broader study on the many off-the-wall theories on Atlantis had been padded unnecessarily into a full-length book. It's a short book, certainly, but not one without its dry patches. The lengthy digressions into Swedish politics (as well as those at Rudbeck's university) can get a trifle boring. But when King sticks to Rudbeck's obsession with proving that Sweden was, among other things, what the ancient Greeks referred to as Atlantis and Hades (!), this is a mesmerizing study of a quirky, delightfully eccentric individual.
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Format: Hardcover
Much like the Holy Grail, the search for Atlantis is a topic that demands curiousity. Here, Peter King writes with mangificent prose the account of Olof Rudbeck and his quest to prove that his Sweden was indeed the location of the lost, advanced civilization.

Before getting there, however, King illustrates Rudbeck's upbringing and education, which is fascinating in itself. For instance, he tells us that Rudbeck made the first major medical discovery of any Swede when he discovered the lymphatic system after performing a dissection on a cow carcass in an open market. After this discovery, Rudbeck experienced a meteoric rise in both the educational and royal graces, and was eventually asked for help researching the whereabouts of an ancient Norse tale from folklore...

As a result of that research, Rudbeck began to see connections from Classical Civilization to the folklore of Sweden, both in geography and in their legendary rulers. The majority of the book is devoted to Rudbeck's obsessive mission, which eventually became proving that Sweden was the home of Plato's Atlantis. Rudbeck's methodologies were ground-breaking and impressive. King casts Rudbeck as an intelligent eccentric, both ridiculous enough to constantly ruffle the feathers of his peers and charming enough to get himself out of most jams.

The background history of Sweden and Europe make it a worthwhile read, but the story of Rudbeck's mission make it an excellent one.
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