Light, Colour, and the Cosmos in the Medieval and Modern Worlds

Geocentric Universe
©The Projection Studio

A little over a week ago the OxNet-Ordered Universe 2019 Easter School brought the 2019 cohort of school students aged 16-17 (Lower Sixth Form, Year 12) from the North-East, to a 2-day residential experience at Durham University. Students from Southmoor Academy, St Anthony’s, St Robert of Newminster, and Park View Academy, came together at venues around Durham including Collingwood College, Palace Green Libary, Durham Castle (University College Durham), the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology, and the Institute for Computational Cosmology to think about the topic of ‘Light, Colour, and the Cosmos: Exploring Themes in Medieval and Modern Science’.

OxNet North East co-ordinator, Claire Ungley shared the following thoughts on the Easter School in her report below:

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Napa Lighted Art Festival – Colour, Perception, the Avant Garde and more

A second set of talks, and memories from the Napa Lighted Festival last month. Friday 18th January saw a first talk from multi-media sculptor Alexandra Carr, a frequent collaborator with the Ordered Universe, and Joshua Harvey (Psychology and Engineering Science, University of Oxford). In Beyond Colour Alexandra and Josh spoke on various Continue reading

Napa Lighted Art Festival – Glass, Pyrography and more

The Ordered Universe symposium series at the Napa Lighted Art Festival, two weeks ago today, began with two sessions, one from Cate Watkinson (University of Sunderland and Watkinson Glass Associates) and Giles Gasper (Durham University). Speaking on Glass Continue reading

Grosseteste meets York Stained Glass Studies

Bishop_Robert_Grosseteste,_1896_(3x4crop)Tom McLeish was invited last week (November 1st) to hold a seminar on Grosseteste’s colour science  with the University of York’s History of Art Department’s Stained Glass Studies Group.  So here (right) is a stained-glass representation of the Bishop to start with.

Tom, an original member of the Ordered Universe project right from the very early days in Durham, has recently joined the University of York as its new Chair of Natural Philosophy.  Although based in Physics, the role has time allocated to the

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Kings Manor of the University of York, the home of its Centre for Medieval Studies

University’s long-standing Centre for Medieval Studies, as well, which is now a partner of the project. The Centre is accommodated in Kings Manor, the former abbot’s house of St. Mary’s Abbey (now ruined) close to the Minster, Museum, Library and Art Gallery in the centre of the city.

The natural starting point for the Kings Manor seminar was Grosseteste’s De colore, his treatise, probably from the mid 1220s that develops his natural philosophy of light into a theory of colour.  Early in the Ordered Universe project’s life we had studies this jewel of a treatise, and found it to be structured in a highly mathematical way. It constitutes the first description of an abstract three-dimensional space for colour.Dimensions of Colour book_ These insights, together with a fresh edition and translation and interdisciplinary commentary, formed the first ‘pilot’ publication from the project, Dimensions of Colour, back in 2013. in only 400 Latin words, Grosseteste carefully identifies colour as the effect of light incorporated in a diaphanous medium, and describes three ‘axes’ along which colour can vary independently. Crucially, two of these depend on properties of light and one on the material within which the light dwells – its ‘purity’ or ‘impurity’. This is turn is related to the quantity of ‘earthiness’ (earth is the only non-translucent of the four Aristotelian elements). The final paragraph of the treatise contains an invitation to try out making colours with different lights and materials, and is one of the pieces of evidence pointing to Grossteste’s involvement in the very early stirrings of experimental tradition.

York stained glass scholar Sarah Brown, who led the scholarly work behind the recent 10-year restoration of York Minster’s Great East Window, was led to think about glass-making right away by this paragraph. Might Grosseteste have witnessed the manufacture of glass?  If so this would not have been in England, but in northern France. Does a thread from light through colour and glass constitute another line of evidence that leads to a presence for him in France in the early 13th century?

The discussion also moved onto lenses and lens making in that era, of which no doubt there will be more news on this blog at a future date…

 

Colour Vision Workshop in Durham

News of a workshop on colour vision taking place at Durham University this week,  in the Department of Psychology organised by Rebecca Wedge-Roberts.  The workshop will explore the subject with papers and discussion from Psychology, Anthropology, Continue reading

Back To (Easter) School

For the 2017–18 academic year, the Ordered Universe Project has continued its partnership with OxNet, an outreach scheme superintended by Pembroke College, Oxford. So far this year, students from local schools have attended evening seminars taught by leading academics from Durham and Sunderland Universities, and now those students have been invited to spend two days at Durham University to get a taste of university life while continuing to explore some of the topics that are closest to the hearts and minds of the members of the Ordered Universe Project.

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Swansea: Rainbows and Colour

Last week, Thursday 23rd and Friday 24th November, Ordered Universe members were made very welcome at the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Research, and the Department of History at Swansea University.  Continue reading

Illuminating Colour: A Guided Tour

1P5B8805For those that haven’t yet managed to get to the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, we have here a guided tour to the exhibition by Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie. Rosie Reed Gold took the photographs, adding another level of interpretation to the movement from 13th century Latin manuscripts, to editions and translations, to textual analysis (by Continue reading