Ordered Universe Reading Group (Durham)

The Durham Ordered Universe group completes its second term next week. We had great fun with Adelard of Bath’s Natural Questions – from the smallest seed to the food which stars might eat, and Adelard’s fierce insistence on reason and the authority of, what he calls, the Arabic learning he had encountered on his travels in the eastern Mediterranean. The part of the nephew became a regular source of fun as well. We then moved onto an exploration of Euclid’s Elements Book 1, with the translation by Adelard at hand (an image from an early 14th century copy, now British Library Burney 275 is above). This involved a lot of triangles. A lot of triangles. And a few circles. However, it was absolutely fascinating to work through the Axioms, Common Notions and then to think through and draw through the propositions. This was especially the case with an interdisciplinary mixed sciences and humanities group: the scientists among us had not formally been taught Euclid, but remarked that the methods and principles were, in fact, deeply familiar. For the humanities experts among us, seeing the beauty of geometry and its foundational place in medieval thinking was a moving experience. Next term we move to Seneca’s Natural Questions, and then we start John Sacrobosco’s De sphera in Michaelmas 2017! With a very short stop on Grosseteste’s Dictum On Clouds next week, as an end of term treat. We’ll publish the timetable for next term shortly  – if you’re in Durham and would like to come along, please let us know (ordered.universe@durham.ac.uk).

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