Tours of the Cosmos: From Dante to Dark Matter

The Ordered Universe team tend to find themselves contemplating a dark sky rather than a dark forest and thinking about how the straight paths through the universe were found, rather than the paths through heaven and hell, but this week Ordered Universe team members Giles Gasper and Tom McLeish were Virgil to the audience’s Dante as they led a lunchtime lecture in Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study.

For the IMEMS Wednesday lunchtime lecture on Feb 7th 2018, Giles Gasper and Tom McLeish treated their friends and colleagues to a fascinating tour of the medieval and modern cosmos, and reflected upon the relationship between science and theology in the middle ages and the power of the universe and astronomy as figurative devices in medieval literature.

The abstract for their joint lecture is below:

Dante’s gaze into Beatrice’s eye initiates grand tour of the medieval cosmos, a structure of overwhelming grandure and consequence. A similar gaze into the new eyes we have constructed for ourselves over the last generation take us today on a similar tour of the vaster-still modern cosmological model. Are there any moral lessons for humanity, other than our insignificance to be learned from this, contemporary, grand tour?

The lecture was well attended by a variety of the academic disciplines represented at Durham University and this was borne out in the wide-ranging and stimulating questions that followed the lecture. We may not have feasted in paradise, but we enjoyed lunch in the company of two happy travellers among the medieval and modern stars.

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Top left image by and belonging to Alexandra Carr.


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