Theophilos Kairis

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Theophilos Kairis (baptismal name Thomas) born October 19, 1784 on the Cyclades island Andros as a son of a distinguished family would study in the theological school of Smyrna and be ordained a Greek Orthodox Priest. He spoke many languages ranging from Ancient Greek, Latin, Italian, French, German, and English, that would allow him participate in organizing the Greek Revolution and to one day build the "Orphanotrophio", a progresive school that embraced the modern university system.

Kairis studied with Veniamin Lesvios at the school of Kydonies, located in Asia Minor, and would be introduced to contempory science and Greek interpretations of natural science. Both Lesvios and Kairis emphasised the phenomena of feeling as being in principle, a phenomenology of discovery that in contemporary science is referred to as cybernetics.

Kairis would go on to study in Pisa and Paris, and was exposed to ideas from the european enlightment. Kairis particularly studied, mathematics, natural sciences and philosophy. Starting from 1811 he led greek language high schools in Asia Minor and took part actively (1819-1826) in the greek war of liberation and is an important figure in the History of Modern Greece.

On May 10, 1821, Theophilos Kairis, one of the leading intellectuals of the Greek Revolution, declared the War of Independence by raising the Greek flag at the picturesque cliffside church of St George on the island of Andros: at this time, a famous heartfelt speech, or "rhetoras", inspired shipowners and merchants to contribute funds to build a Greek Navy to combat the Ottomans.

There are many factors that influence the beginning of the Greek War of Independence and in fact, a previous attempt of liberation from the Ottomans occurred in the late 1700s under the leadership of, Rigas Feraios. Catherine the Great had sent the fleet to assist the Greeks in their quest for independence but unfortunately a storm destroyed the tsarina's fleet. Many of the shipmates and soldiers from this armada inhabited the island of Andros. Furthermore, philosophy and science from the West began to penetrate Greek culture with the evolution of the Filiki Etairia, which was comprised of intellectuals and merchants.

The views of the Age of Enlightenment in European countries are in general well known, while the attempts to introduce the Enlightenment to countries in the periphery of Europe, like Greece, are not known in the same degree. How did the scientific revolution migrate to the Greek-speaking regions occupied by the Ottoman Empire? How did the Greeks accept the truly revolutionary ideas of the French Revolution and liberalism? What were the reactions of the conservative Greek Orthodox Church and who sacrificed their lives in the cause of their ideas?


The elite of powerful European nations would also come to see the war of Greek independence, with its accounts of Turkish atrocities, in a romantic light (see, for example, the 1824 painting Massacre of Chios by Eugène Delacroix). Many of the orphans from the conflict as well as from the massacre from the island of Psara would form the body of the orphanotropio, in which Kairis taught many of the ideas learned from philhellenes from all over europe. Hence, this was the first true European university of Greece.


Kairis fought heroically in the War of Independence, but when the European Great Powers of the time installed Otto von Wittelsbach as Viceroy, Kairis was not ready to integrate himself into the new system. Instead he continued to teach radical ideas of the Enlightenment which brought him into conflict with King Otto and worse with the Church. In the end he became the last victim of the orthodox equivalent of the Holy Inquisition. Kairis suffered the tragic end reserved by fate for those who, being pioneers, tried to introduce to Greece the liberal ideas of Western Europe and the Enlightenment. The philosopher priest, Theophilos Kairis, following his conviction by the Holy Synod in 1839, was confined to the monastary. He had been exiled to Syros for trial but died on January 13, 1853, 10 days before his judicial hearing, of natural causes. He was buried outside the local cemetery without a funeral. The following day, his grave was desecrated by vandals and his remains were mixed with whitewash.


Orphanotrophio of Theophilos Kairis

Theophilos Kairis, founded, with a few disciples, a pietistic revivalist movement, known as Theosebism - something analogous to the Moravians or the Brethren of Count Zinzendorf. This movement was anathematised by the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but never had any really popular following.

Starting from 1826, Kairis dedicated himself to an institute for orphan of the Greek revolution on Andros. The "orphanotrophio", or orphan school, presented Kairis with a chance to introduce to Greek education a wide range of subjects ranging from comparative religion, astrology, ship navigation, agriculture, applied mathematics, accounting, natural science, advance mathematics, and Theosebism. Members of the orphanotrophio represented children from all sides of the balkan conflict, with individuals from Bulgaria, Turks displaced by the revolution, and Catholics who had inhabited the greek island since the Middle Ages. In fact, Kairis had a very different vision for an independent Greece, one that was based upon the American concept of separation of church and state. Kairis advocated for a pan-Balkan state similar to the United States, that was a multi-cultural state that preserved the cosmopolitan nature of post-byzantium, where all creeds where equally free of tyranny from the oppressive "Ottomans". This was the prelude of the so called "Eastern Question", the gradual dismemberment of the decaying Ottoman empire by the western powers.


The Kairis Library

The Kairis Library: This library is housed in a wonderful neoclassical building, in Hora (or Andros Town). In the library are also on display a large number of rare publications, manuscripts, historical records, works of art and a small archaeological collection. Within the records, there is an extensive collection of letters, from a network of intellectuals to Kairis, about the trends in European science and philosophy of that period.

Also the mathematical treatises of Kairis are present, revealing a very active and original intellect, who had written on complex themes, including on mathematical extensions of Pierre-Simon Laplace's Celestial Mechanics. Artifacts that demonstrate Kairis' philosophic approach to understanding the energies (energiki ousia physeos) of nature remain in the library, and highlight Kairis' knowledge of Joseph Fourier's work on energy. Through various letters and correspondence, Kairis' approach to communicating with the various philhellenes reveals a network of intellectuals who where involved in the French revolution.

Kairis has been referred to as the "new Socrates" and was very active in didactic education. The island of Andros has a series of water fountains, and horizontal wind mills constructed at the time the students from the orphanage where active on the Island, and represent applications from the Kairiki lessons.

One can find books by Professor Mavromatis in the library, which is an edited edition of Kairis's mathematical work, including how Kairis use the Newtonian binomial [1] to find the roots of cardinal numbers.

Kairis was in constant communication with western intellectuals. He had communicated with Auguste Comte and wrote on his treatises on sociology, then a newly-emerging subject. Kairis has also incorporated these ideas into the curriculum of the orphanage. Comte's ideas where tremendously influential on Kairis in the later years of the orphanage, especially the idea that social ills can be solved as advocated by Jeremy Bentham.

Kairis emphasised poetry as part of the curriculum and taught Lord Byron's work, Robert Browning as well as poetry from the French and German-speaking west. This was to create an naturalist and metaphysical attitude balanced with the natural sciences and mathematics.

Unfortunately, the school was disbanded after Kairis was declared a heretic, but many of the orphans went on into the shipping professions, versed in accounting and probability. Of notable family names who can trace back ancestors to those who were schooled by Kairis were the Goulandris and Emberikos families. Other students hid in the surrounding mountains, taking with them the banned books from the school, and continued to live with the inhabitants of the island working and building some of the most interesting wind mills in Greece.

Kairis also taught his students Archaeology and conducted field trips on the island to the place where he had discovered the ruins of a temple dedicated to Aphrodite prior to the Greek Revolution.

To this day, every summer, art exhibitions are organized in the new exhibition area of the library.

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