Elemental: OxNet Access Week – Ordered Universe Summer School

Next week is the beginning of the OxNet Access Week – a summer school, which under normal circumstances takes place at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, and brings together all of the hub-schools within the OxNet programme: from the North-West, London, and the North-East of the UK, and students from the Karta Initiative as well. This year we are in a virtual version – the main school meets from 3rd-7th August. The Ordered Universe strand will start a week earlier, on Monday 27th July. Taking the theme of Elemental the strand will introduce students form the North East OxNet cohort, and others, to two treatises by Robert Grosseteste, On Comets and On the Impressions of the Elements. The first deals, unsurprisingly enough, with comets, but comes to some intriguing and complex conclusions; the second takes water and air, principally, and explores the transformation of elements through consideration of bubbles and the action of heat. 

Around access to the texts, in English translation, we have a suite of explanatory films from various members of the team, from Tom McLeish (York, Physics and Medieval Studies), Brian Tanner (Durham, Physics), Sigbjørn Sønnesyn, Giles Gasper, Sarah Gilbert, and Walker Christian (Durham, History), and Seb Falk (Cambridge, History of Science). These will explore various aspects of the treatise, following the Ordered Universe methodology of different disciplinary perspectives, from humanities and sciences, and lay out wider aspects of medieval science. In addition to this the students on the strand will join the rest of the school in the second week, with optional modules including collaborative reading of the On Comets and On the Impressions of the Elements, and  science outreach with Hannah Smithson, and her lab.

We’re really looking forward to leading the course, and introducing the students to texts on which the team are currently working, and to show the detail and inspiration of university life and learning. And, while we may not be able to do this face to face, the online forum allows different opportunities, and a chance for more extended refection and engagement with university research. The Ordered Universe strand is co-directed by Sarah Gilbert and Giles Gasper, with additional assistance from Walker Christian and the OxNet North-East co-ordinator Claire Ungley; our thanks to the team members taking part, and to Peter Claus and Felix Slade of OxNet. Comets and Elements await!

Credits: Nebul image from NASA.

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