- Sigmund Zois
Sigmund's father Michelangelo Zois was a Venetian merchant who moved to
Ljubljanawhere he made a considerable fortune. He married a Carniolan noblewoman and acquired the right to the title of baron. He owned large estates both in Carniola and on the Kras, and Sigmund was born in Trieste, in one of his father's palaces.
He studied natural sciences with
Gabriel Gruberand Joseph Maffeiin Ljubljana. After attending several other private schools, Sigmund Zois moved to Italywhere he continued his education. He enjoyed traveling and making new acquaintances. However, his way of life was soon truncated by gout, a disease that would stuck him for the rest of his life. After returning to Ljubljana, he developed a strong interest in sciences and started to work with Baltazar Hacquet and several Slovene intellectuals of the time.
The Zois circle
In the early 1780s, his mansion in Ljubljana became a fostering center for liberal intellectuals at the center of the Slovene enlightenment.
Jurij Japelj, Blaž Kumerdej, Jernej Kopitar, Anton Tomaž Linhart, and Valentin Vodnikwere the most prominent members of what became known as the “Zois circle”. Zois was their mecenate(patron), mentoring them and granting them necessary financial support for their cultural and scientific efforts, thus becoming the central figure of the Slovenian enlightenment. He was a deistand his views were rational and empirical. Nevertheless, he strongly opposed the French revolutionand supported the moderate enlightened constitutionalism of Leopold II.
The literary opus of Sigmund Zois, of modest quality and little influence, includes many literary forms and genres, ranging from arias for the opera to lyrics for folk music, although probably only a minor part of his work has been preserved. His translation of the poem "Lenore" by
Gottfried August Burgerwas regarded as a complete failure, and Zois himself later came to the conclusion that the Slovene language was "too mediocre and rough" to allow for such a literary achievement. He would be disproven only some decades later by France Prešerenwho managed to compose a complex and exceptional translation of the same poem. Zois is also regarded as a father of Slovene literary criticism, most of his literary reviews can be found in his correspondence with Valentin Vodnik.
Zois died in Ljubljana.
Much more important are his achievements in the fields of
mineralogy, geology, botanyand zoology. His collection of minerals (around 5,000 items) is kept in the Slovenian National Museum in Ljubljana.
In 1795, he mounted two expeditions to explore the land around the
Triglavmountain. In 1805, the mineral zoisitewas named after him, since Zois was the first to correctly assess that the rock found by Simon Prešernin the Carinthian Alpsrepresented a previously unknown mineral.
Sigmund also supported the work of his brother, the
botanist Karl Zoiswho, among other things, discovered the " Campanula zoysii", a previously unknown Carniolan flower.
The most important scientific award in Slovenia, as well as a state-founded
scholarshipfor talented students, are named after him.
Brdo pri Kranju
* [http://nl.ijs.si/e-zrc/zois/index-en.html Correspondence of Sigmund Zois (Scholarly Digital Editions of Slovene Literature)]
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