Ordered Universe goes west


Macrobian map
A Macrobian map of the inhabitable world (source: cartographic-images.net)

Robert Grosseteste, following the most authoritative texts at his disposal, was convinced that the only land mass of the earth that was actually inhabitable was the part we would now say is bounded by the Atlantic on the west side, and by the Saharan desert to the south. Some representatives of the Ordered Universe group are about to put that view to the test, boldly boarding transatlantic flights to seek out parts of the world not even mentioned by Macrobius, Ovid, and Ptolemy. All in the interest of science, of course. Giles Gasper and Sig Sønnesyn will join forces with other medievalists from Durham University, both permanent staff and PhD students, to renew bonds of friendship and scholarship with North American colleagues and their guests from around the world. In three weeks’ time, our intrepid travellers will place their trust in the ability of massive aluminium tubes to defy gravity and traverse the territory of Oceanus, to touch down in Toronto.  In Toronto we will participate in a one-day seminar organised by Nicholas Everett of the History Department and Centre for Medieval Studies at University of Toronto. The programme will include speakers from Toronto, Paris, and Durham, and will provide us with a great opportunity to discuss our research in a compact and friendly setting. We are deeply grateful to Dr. Everett for organising this seminar, and we are greatly looking forward to it.


After the Toronto part of the programme has been concluded, we will pile into a hired car in true and trusted Durham medievalist fashion for the trek to the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Here, Giles and Sig will join forces with our valued transatlantic Ordered Universe member Kathy Bader to stage a session on the Scientific Works of Robert Grosseteste. Our papers will in the main deal with the educational and scientific background and context of Robert’s works. Giles will investigate the relationship between scientific exploration and the liberal arts in Robert’s thought, while Kathy will discuss Robert’s mathematics in relation to the Severn Valley mathematical school prominent in the 12th century. Sig will look at the notions of experience and experiment in Robert’s thought, and the roots of these notions in twelfth-century thinking. While Grosseteste is justly lauded for his ground-breaking thought and writing, this session thus provides a glimpse of the milieu from which Grosseteste drew his intellectual sustenance and formation, and which provided him with a framework within which to formulate his own wide-ranging ideas.

Kathy Bader

Please come and say hello if you happen to be present at the Congress!

Published by sigsonnesyn

Post doc on the Ordered Universe Project, editing and translating Robert Grosseteste's scientific treatises.

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