Rays of Light, Rainbows of Colour

Pembroke College OxfordThe most recent Ordered Universe Syposium took place amid a riot of colour as summer turned to autumn at Pembroke College Oxford in late September.

The Ordered Universe team met in Oxford to work on the forthcoming editions and translations of Robert Grosseteste’s treatises: De colore, De impressionibus elementorum, De iride, De lineis, and De natura locorum. The De colore and De iride texts were a particular treat for your blogpost-author as this was the first time that these texts had been considered in a full-group setting since I became attached to the project. Both texts were a joy to read in both their original Latin and their modern English translations – from the extraordinary brevity of the De colore where Grosseteste casually sets out his model of a 3D colour space, to the De iride in which he used the application of the principles of reflection and refraction to propose the mechanisms by which rainbows are formed. Reading the De iride in particular, where Grosseteste draws heavily on the scientific works of other authors including Aristotle, we found that this was one of the texts where we could most clearly hear Grosseteste’s own authorial voice and pedagogical style alongside his paraphrases of the work of other scientists.

At the symposium, we were joined by two undergraduate science students from the University of York, Sophie Abrahams and Joshua Hurd who both presented research projects that examined aspects of Grosseteste’s scientific writings. Joshua had undertaken work on perception and medieval astronomy, and Sophie had tested some of the ideas about bubbles set out in De impressionibus elementorum. We were all very impressed with the quality of their work and look forward to hearing about further developments!

Thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of all of the participants this was a very productive meeting, which benefitted from the customary hospitality of Pembroke College.

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