Ignatius Loyola Donnelly (1831-1901), was an Irish-American born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1852. He moved to Minnesota in 1857, where he was elected Lieutenant-Governor when it became a state in 1859, at the age of twenty-eight and was re-elected in 1861. He served as a Congressman from 1863 until 1869 and was a state senator from 1874 to 1878. The People’s Party, of which he was a founder, nominated him for Vice-President of the United States. He was a political liberal, being in favour of women’s suffrage and against slavery.
Donnelly was also a journalist and the author of a number of books. In 1882 he published his most famous work on the subject of Atlantis, which is still in print today, although many of the more recent editions have been heavily edited to exclude some of Donnelly’s more outlandish ideas. Bill Lauritzen has remarked that Donnelly’s legal background led him to limit his case for the existence of Atlantis to a discussion of the ‘pros’ while ignoring the cons’.
The public reaction to Donnelly’s book was reflected in the New Orleans ‘Mardi Gras’ of 1883 having had an Atlantis theme.
Donnelly concluded that Atlantis was real and located in the Atlantic. He suggested “the gods and goddesses of the ancient Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Hindus, and the Scandinavians were simply the kings, queens, and heroes of Atlantis; and the acts attributed to them in mythology are a confused recollection of real historical events.” Similar ideas have been developed by the late Joseph Robert Jochmans.
*Nevertheless, Donnelly endeavoured to match Plato’s Atlantis with his chosen Atlantic location for the lost civilisation, which can be fairly compared with the equally comprehensive but also flawed effort two centuries earlier by Olof Rudbeck endeavouring to identify Sweden as Atlantis.*
Donnelly’s book contains a list of thirteen theses (See: Atlantis: The Antediluvian World), which he then proceeds to ‘prove’, drawing on Plato’s text and the scientific knowledge of this period, not to mention a generous helping of pure conjecture. J.V. Luce remarked that “Donnelly bemuses his readers into a mood of infinite credulity” [0120.29].
In 2017, Stephen P.Kershaw includes a brief critique of Donnelly’s work in A Brief History of Atlantis and concludes that Donnelly is unquestionably the most influential writer on Atlantis since Plato. I would argue that even though his ideas are more bizarre than Donnelly’s, Edgar Cayce is probably more quoted today than Donnelly. This is just a reflection of the number of gullible people that are out there. Donnelly’s influence has been greatly diminished over the decades as many of his theses have been undermined by later researchers. Cayce’s influence will only diminish if critical thinking becomes more widespread. In the meanwhile there are a few highly qualified dedicated Atlantis investigators who are slowly closing in on a solution.
Many have followed his thinking since then and in 1886, Donnelly published a sequel, Ragnarok to his work on Atlantis that dealt with the idea of a cometary impact with the earth. In fact, in 1883 twelve years after the Great Chicago Fire, Donnelly proposed(g) that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was not responsible for the conflagration but instead was the result of the impact of a meteor fragment, with Comet Biela as the prime suspect.
Following the remarkable reception that his books received, Donnelly was elected to membership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. However, it did not take long before critics emerged. One was John Francis Arundell also known as Lord Arundell of Wardour (1831-1906) who published his criticism in book form in 1885 in which he claimed that Plato’s Atlantis story was based on the account that we have relating to the Voyage of Hanno.* It can be read or downloaded online(c).
Donnelly also wrote a 1,000-page work that attempted to prove that Shakespeare had not written all that he has been credited with. Obviously a man with time on his hands, he also published a number of works of fiction under the name of Edmund Boisgilbert MD.
Thirty years ago Marjorie Braymer wrote of Donnelly’s work in the following manner[198.65], “Modern editions of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World are streamlined and heavily revised; whole sections have been scissored out and dropped. The reason is clear: Donnelly offered many theories as known and established facts that science did not support even then and wholly discredits today.” Some consider aspects of his ideas to be somewhat racist! However, his influence is still pervasive, exemplified by the fact that the first translation of his Atlantis in Sinhala, the principal language of Sri Lanka, was only published in 2014(d).
Donnelly also questioned the authorship of the works attributed to William Shakespeare in The Great Cryptogram. The Shakespeare debate has raged for two centuries and now the editors of The New Oxford Shakespeare are convinced, on the basis of computer analysis, that Christopher Marlowe was a co-author of several plays credited, until now, solely to Shakespeare(h). Coincidentally, another Atlantologist Comyns Beaumont held similar views, which he published nearly half a century later in The Private Life of the Virgin Queen, considered to be the least controversial of his literary output!
At the end of the 19th century, a Mrs Donnelly, a fortune-teller from San Francisco, adopted the professional name of ‘Madame Atlantis’!
There is a wealth of Internet material relating to Donnelly e.g. (a)(b).
Donnelly’s Atlantis is now also available as a free audio book(e).
Atlantis: The Antediluvian World  by Ignatius Donnelly was first published by Harper & Bros. of New York in 1882 and is still in print today and continues to fire the imagination of many. Although it contains many assumptions, assertions and errors, it was a daring venture for its time, pulling together data from many disciplines to produce a coherent argument in favour of the reality of Atlantis.
Donnelly offers his readers the following thirteen propositions at the beginning of his tome giving the flavour of its contents:
(1) That there once existed in the Atlantic Ocean, opposite the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, a large island, which was the remnant of an Atlantic continent, and known to the ancient world as Atlantis.
(2) That the description given by Plato is not, as has been long supposed, fable, but veritable history.
(3) That Atlantis was the region where man first rose from a state of barbarism to civilisation.
(4) That it became, in the course of ages, a populous and mighty nation, from whose overflowings the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River, the Amazon, the Pacific coast of South America, the Mediterranean, the west coast of Europe and Africa, the Baltic, the Black Sea and the Caspian were populated by civilised nations.
(5) That it was the true Antediluvian world; the Garden of Eden; the Garden of Hesperides – where the Atlantides lived on the River Ocean in the West; the Elysian Fields situated by Homer to the west of the Earth; the Gardens of Alcinous – grandson of Poseidon and son of Nausithous, king of the Phaeacians of the island of Scheria; the Mesomphalous – or Navel of the Earth, a name given to the Temple at Delphi, which was situated in the crater of an extinct volcano; the Mount Olympus – of the Greeks; the Asgard – of the Eddas; the focus of the traditions of the ancient nations; representing a universal memory of a great land, where early mankind dwelt for ages in peace and happiness.
(6) That the gods and goddesses of the ancient Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Hindus, and the Scandinavians were simply the kings, queens, and heroes of Atlantis; and the acts attributed to them in mythology, a confused recollection of real historical events.
(8) That the oldest colony founded by the Atlanteans was probably in Egypt, whose civilisation was a reproduction of that of the Atlantic island.
(9) That the implements of the ‘Bronze Age’ of Europe were derived from Atlantis. The Atlanteans were also the first manufacturers of iron.
(10) That the Phoenician alphabet, parent of all European alphabets, was derived from an Atlantis alphabet, which was also conveyed from Atlantis to the Maya of Central America.
(11) That Atlantis was the original seat of Aryan or Indo-European family of nations, as well as of Semitic peoples, and possibly also of Turanian races (of central Asia).
(12) That Atlantis perished in a terrible convulsion of nature, in which the whole island was submerged by the ocean, with nearly all of its inhabitants.
(13) That a few persons escaped in ships and on rafts, and carried to the nations east and west tidings of the appalling catastrophe, which has survived to our own time in Flood and Deluge legends in the different nations of the Old and New Worlds.
Although some of these propositions now appear rather dated and are in some instances factually incorrect, we must keep in mind that they were written over a century ago. It is quite possible that without the impetus created by Donnelly’s book, Atlantis would have remained a relatively obscure subject.
The original text of Atlantis and that of Donnelly’s sequel, Ragnarok, are now available on a number of sites on the Internet(a).
In my view, although I say it with hindsight, all of Donnelly’s propositions are flawed and unsupported by any realistic interpretation of what Plato wrote. If speculation was a taxable commodity in 1882, Donnelly would have been bankrupted.
2014 saw the first translation of Donnelly’s Atlantis into Sinhalese by the Sri Lankan translator G.R.A. Perera(b).
(b) http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2014/03/09/mon11.asp (Link broken Nov. 2016)
The Book of Revelation is invoked[102.121-125] by Frank Joseph, in attempts to link descriptions in it to the destruction of Atlantis. The proposed connection is rather tenuous and seems to be an attempt to expand on an idea of John Michell, who sees parallels between the destruction of Babylon and that of Atlantis.
Allan & Delair, in their book on prehistoric catastrophes have suggested that the Book of Revelation is not wholly prophetic but in fact contains references to the effect of a near miss by a large extraterrestrial body.
Others see this final book of the Bible as foreshadowing the end of the world, comparable with the Ragnarok of Norse mythology(a).
Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979) was by profession a doctor of medicine, specialising in psychiatry. However, his fame is based on being arguably the most controversial catastrophist of the 20th century. He daringly proposed that the Earth had a number of close encounters with other planetary bodies that resulted in catastrophic consequences, including interference with the rotation of our planet. He speculated that Atlantis was probably destroyed during one of these cataclysmic events.
Some have seen the influence of Ignatius Donnelly’s Ragnarok, written seventy years earlier, in Velikovsky’s cosmic collision theories. In fact a number of commentators have noted how Velikovsky seemed reluctant to credit earlier writers, such as W. C. Beaumont and Johann Radlof (1775-1846)(b), with their contributions to the development of the theory of planetary catastrophism. Rens Van Der Sluijs has written an interesting two-part paper(d)(e) listing the catastrophists who preceded Velikovsky demonstrating a certain lack of originality on his part! Others take a more critical view of his ideas(g). In 1950, he responded to this criticism with a defensive piece(n), but I consider it inadequate as he continued to ignore the work of Radlof and Beaumont.
Van Der Sluijs has written a two-part(k)(l) article on Velikovsky’s radical views regarding Venus as a comet-like body and how Aztec sources support some of his contentions.
*Carl Sagan (1934-1996), was a well-known American astronomer, author and lecturer. He is considered a leading debunker of Velikovsky’s theories. He devoted much of his Broca’s Brain  to this end. Charles Ginenthal (1934-2017) produced an extensive rebuttal of Sagan’s criticisms in Carl Sagan & Immanuel Velikovsky .*
Velikovsky was initially inclined to link the disappearance of Atlantis with the eruption of Thera, but later came to support a location between the Azores and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge(i). He was an early questioner of Plato’s figure of 9,000 years for the age of Atlantis, suggesting that it was exaggerated by a factor of ten[0037.152]. ”Whatever the source of the error, the most probable date of the sinking of Atlantis would be in the middle of the second millennium, 900 years before Solon, when the earth twice suffered great catastrophes as a result of ‘the shifting of the heavenly bodies.’ These words of Plato received the least attention, though they deserved the greatest.”
Velikovsky offered intriguing evidence that on least one occasion the early Egyptians experienced the sun rising in the west and setting in the east(q)! His other major contribution was in his questioning of the accepted Bronze Age chronologies of the eastern Mediterranean. Later writers, such as David Rohl and Peter James have built on his chronology work, while Gary Gilligan has added support for Velikovsky’s planetary theories as well.
One website(a) provides us with a considerable amount of Velikovsky’s unpublished work, while another offers an encyclopedia of his work(c). A more general German site(f), in English, is also worth a visit.
The three of Velikovsky’s most popular books as well as some of his lesser known papers are available as pdf files(j)(m).
Jan Sammer was an assistant to Velikovsky (1976-1978) and an archivist and editor for the Velikovsky Estate (1980-1983). He advises us that he was involved in the completion of Velikovsky’s unpublished book, In the Beginning, which can be read online(h).
In 2012, Laird Scranton, published The Velikovsky Heresies, in which he reviews Velikovsky’s controversial theories in the light of scientific discoveries since his death. Not unexpectedly, Scranton does find evidence that supports some of Velikovsky’s contentions.
Some readers may wish to see a video by Wallace Thornhill, of Electric Universe fame, in which he discusses Velikovsky’s Astrophysics (o). There are a number of free papers and books, including some Velivovskian material, available online(p).
Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel  by Ignatius Donnelly, who took the title of his book from the word ‘Ragnarök’, which in Scandinavian mythology describes the destruction of the world of men and gods. He claims to have written this 450-page book in seven weeks in 1882. Some later editions have misleadingly added The Destruction of Atlantis to the original
title, as Atlantis is only peripheral to the subject in a book title will always help sales
Donnelly seems to have anticipated the work of Immanuel Velikovsky when he wrote of a close encounter or actual impact with the Earth by a comet. He presents an array of geological evidence to support this contention. In addition he proposes that this celestial clash also a displacement of the poles. Again this is an idea that was taken up by a number of writers in the succeeding century and is still strongly supported today. Like Velikovsky, Donnelly postulated that the resulting catastrophes were recorded in mythology and biblical texts. One of the specific consequences of this encounter was the destruction of Atlantis, which he expanded on in his previous book, Atlantis, concerning Plato’s sunken civilisation. Both of Donnelly’s books are available to read on the Internet(a).
In 2013 experts in Norse mythology announced that a Viking apocalyptic ‘Ragnarok’ was due on February 22nd 2014!(b). The claim, which I suspect was a publicity stunt, was downplayed on February 23rd(c).