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Jan Amos Comenius

komensky) (1592-1670. Bohemian educational reformer. Born in E Moravia, Comenius was educated at the Latin school in Prerov and at the Herborn Academy in Nassau, and later studied theology at Heidelberg. On his return he was ordained priest of the Unity of Brethren (Unitas Fratrum), and in 1618 became pastor at Fulnek. On the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War, Fulnek was invaded (1621) and Comenius sought refuge with his coreligionist Lord Charles the Elder of Zerotín in E Bohemia. The wife and two children of Comenius died in a plague.

When imperial laws proscribed all non-Catholic clergy from Bohemia-Moravia, he left the country, never to return. He settled at Leszno in Poland, where he became rector of the gymnasium. His Janua linguarum reserata (1631), written to make the study of Latin easier, was translated into eleven European and four Asiatic languages. When soon after he produced his Didactica magna, he was acclaimed as the outstanding educational reformer, and is so considered to this day.

Comenius was invited to England, and while in London during the winter of 1641-42 he outlined in his Via lucis a plan of cultural reform calling for the establishment of a “pansophic college.” Education was defined as aiming at learning all that was necessary for this and the future life. It included not only scientific study of nature with deductive reasoning, but also the Bible as integrated into universal education of both sexes and as securing universal peace and religious harmony. In 1645 Comenius began the monumental work De rerum humanarum emendatione Consultatio. Only two of the seven volumes were published in his lifetime; the rest were unfinished. Lost early in the eighteenth century, the text was found in 1935 and 1940, and all seven volumes were published in 1966 by the Czechoslovak Academy in Prague.

The first volume asserts that all men are capable of being educated. The second (Panaugia) says God has provided men with three sources of knowledge: nature, reason, and revelation (Scripture). All three are necessary for good life, for the whole truth consists in the synthesis of all three. In the fourth volume (Pampaedia) Comenius presents his final reworking of educational theories, extending the training of all men literally from the cradle to the grave. Volume 6 (Panorthosia), the most important of the whole series, advocates reform of culture, politics and religion. To achieve this, the Council of Light is to deal with worldwide educational reforms; the Court of Justice is to govern political reorganization and to serve as the supreme judicial tribunal; the Ecumenical Consistory is to supervise and regulate the universal spread of Christianity.

Since his hopes for establishing the pansophic college in London were disappointed, he accepted an invitation to reform the Swedish educational system, and in 1650 undertook a similar reform in Hungary. When in 1656 Leszno was burned by the Poles, Comenius lost all his property including many valuable manuscripts. He was then invited to Amsterdam, which became his home for the rest of his life and where he published many of his books (which total more than 150).

Though known primarily as an educational reformer, he was equally prominent as a religious leader (he was the last bishop of the Czech branch of the Unity of Brethren), and as an ecumenical pioneer who strove throughout his life for the unification of Christendom..

M. Spinka, John Amos Comenius, that Incomparable Moravian (1943, 1967); M. Spinka (tr.), Comenius's Labyrinth of the World and The Bequest of the Unity (1942, 1940); J.E. Sadler, J.A. Comenius and the Concept of Universal Education (1966); G.H. Trumbull, Hartlib, Dury and Comenius (1947).