‘Wonders of the Universe’ is a public lecture from the Ordered Universe Research Project, an interdisciplinary encounter between medieval and modern science: 7th April, 2016, 18.00 in Rome, at the University of Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway (Via Ostilia, 15). The lecture is given in two parts, each of 30 minutes, by Dr Cecilia Panti, an expert on medieval philosophy, and Professor Tom McLeish FRS, an expert on physics, rheology and a keen astronomer. Between the two of them they will explore the intricacies and delights of medieval and modern thought on astronomy and planetary systems.
Cecilia will introduce one of the most famous texts on astronomy inherited by the medieval west from the ancient world, and its medieval Arabic commentators, and the fascinating story of its complex reception:
‘The Almagest of the ancient Alexandrian Ptolemy was by the end of the 12th century known to the Latin world, as was its large corpus of explanatory treatises. Robert Grosseteste was one of the first western scholars to study the Almagest, an encounter which seems to have left him more questions than answers. In his cosmological writings Grosseteste did not engage with the quantitive aspects of the Almagest, and, although appearing to reject the complexities of Ptolemy’s mathematical approach to astronomy, used other models which were even more obscure. Only with the emergence of new techniques in practical astronomy, championed by Campanus of Nova and William of Wallingford was it possible to verify and understand the approach of the Almagest, almost a century after it first appeared on the conceptual horizon of western scholars.’
Changes in practical astronomy and observation altered, radically, understanding of past texts, and the heavens. Tom takes this story on to explore the marvellous diversity of planetary bodies within the solar system:
‘Just over 400 years ago, in 1609 or 1610, Galileo identified the four largest satellites of Jupiter as true moons of the giant planet. Since then, both earth and space-based exploration of the solar system have revealed dozens of rocky worlds in orbit around the planets. These are the true occupiers of the imagined ‘epicycles’ of old rather than the planets themselves. One of the greatest surprises to emerge in this great epoch of exploration is that no two are alike. We will survey briefly ice-moons, clouded moons, volcanic moons, two-faced moons and more, in a tour of the solar system’s rich family of worlds’.
All are welcome to join us for this journey into space and time. The University of Notre Dame du Lac Rome Global Gateway, Via Ostilia 15, is found here:
The lectures will be followed by a wine reception. Entrance is free but places are limited and must be registered by email to: email@example.com