The Grosseteste Project and being involved as a student

My name is Ulrike, and I just finished the second year of my undergraduate degree in Psychology with Philosophy at Oxford. The first time I heard about the Grosseteste project was at a drinks reception we had with our College tutors. We asked Hannah about the various research strands she is involved in, and it came as a surprise to hear about an interdisciplinary group of scholars and scientists who interpret the scientific writings of a medieval philosopher and theologian. That out of all my tutors, the perception expert would collaborate with experts from the humanities was all the more unexpected, given that perception is probably at the very hardcore science end of the psychology spectrum. I remember asking tentatively what the point of such a joint project would be, (I really hope I found a more subtle way of saying this back then). I don’t trust my memory enough to now quote Hannah’s answer, and I’m sure you are familiar with it anyway. If not, I definitely recommend asking her about it because it was certainly very interesting. Back then, I was definitely very intrigued by this approach of doing both history and science in symbiosis. However, I couldn’t quite picture how this would actually work, and how fruitful the conclusions drawn would be for either field.

The second time I heard about the Grosseteste project was when Hannah offered to take me along to the FIDEM conference – and here I am. I have been very grateful for this unique opportunity, and it has felt very much like a journey into the exciting unknown. In the process I feel I have been taken to a number of ‘places’, many of which had been known to be before only in terms of their existence, and not more. Sadly neither history nor physics featured very heavily in my education, which is probably due to the way it was taught and because it may not be as close to my natural interests. This means that I have come to this project without any relevant background knowledge, a fact that made me feel a little apprehensive. I could definitely see how I personally would benefit from being part of it, but it remained mysterious to me how I would be able to reciprocate. Finding out about the newly added educational strand, I have consoled myself by the thought that there may be some point in having a ‘blank slate’, to see how Grosseteste and the research group’s ideas would implement on it.

During the past days I feel I have travelled not only to Portugal, but also to the world of medieval science and philosophy, of modern day science and cosmology, and of both scholarly and scientific academic life. (On this note, it was very nice to hear Phil saying in today’s session that ‘The past is a foreign country.’ 🙂 ) Hannah and Giles have asked us students to keep a blog (maybe a sort of ‘travel diary’?) of the impressions we have gathered during the conference and workshops, so this is what will follow.

2 thoughts on “The Grosseteste Project and being involved as a student

  1. Hello Ulrike,

    A quick comment: glad you liked the metaphor, but the quote is not mine. It’s the first line of L. P. Hartley’s “The Go-Between”, the full quote being: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” which I thought apt!


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