Berkeley Talk – Sound and Perception

Ordered Universe team members Giles Gasper and Joshua Harvey delivered a talk at University of California, Berkeley, on Wednesday this week (16th Jan). Organised by Dr Henrike Lange of the Departments of Art History and Italian at Berkeley, the talk focused on Robert Grosseteste’s treatise On the Generation of Sounds. An excellent example of the way in which the project used interpretative tools from a wide range of disciplines to analyse the implications of this short but beguilingly complex treatise. Continue reading

Ordered Universe at Berkeley

ann the generation of sound

Ordered Universe team members Giles Gasper (History, Durham) and Joshua Harvey (Psychology and Engineering, Oxford) will be giving a talk, open to the public, at University of California, Berkeley, on January 16th. We’re delighted to have been invited by Dr Henrike Lange, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Art History and Italian, and will be talking about Ordered Universe work on Robert Grosseteste’s treatise On the Generation of Sounds. In particular Continue reading

Knowing and Speaking – Ordered Universe Publications Updates

It is a particular pleasure to be able to report on progress on Ordered Universe publications. The main news is that our first volume in the seven-volume series with Oxford University Press is completed and is accepted for publication. Knowing and Speaking presents the first two of Grosseteste’s treatises On the Liberal Arts and On the Generation of Sounds, alongside the Middle English re-imagining of both texts as part of the longer The Seven Liberal ArtsContinue reading

Ordered Universe – First Volume

The Ordered Universe team has been hard at work over the summer, putting together the first volume for a seven-volume series on Robert Grosseteste’s shorter scientific works to be published by Oxford University Press. The first volume incorporates the Continue reading

Lincoln – Annual Grosseteste Day 2016

Friday 7th October saw the the Annual Grosseteste Day lecture at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln, on Friday 7th October. In succession to another Ordered Universe stalwart, Michael Huxtable, whose tour of Grosseteste’s rich and layered Anglo-Norman poem the Chateau d’Amour was the subject of the 2015 lecture, Giles Gasper explored the second of Grosseteste’s scientific treatises, the De generatione sonorum – On the Generation of Sounds. The occasion was a double celebration since it marked the formal book launch of the volume of essays deriving from the International Grosseteste Society Conference, Continue reading

Sounding a Sonativum: Robert Grosseteste Day


The annual Robert Grosseteste Day takes place at Bishop Grosseteste University on Friday 7th October (Grosseteste’s feast day in the Christian Church is 9th October). Organised by Jack Cunningham the activities include a public lecture, and the launch of a new collection of essays from the 2014 International Grosseteste Society Conference, also held at BGU.

Continue reading

Gravitational Waves and the Cosmic ‘Sonativum’

Artistic rendition of the merging black holes that gave rise to the gravitational waves reported in February 2016. Image from LIGO collaboration

Only an Ordered Universe blogpost could deserve a title like that.  We cannot let a discovery of such reach, beauty, conceptual depth and powerful simplicity (yes indeed) as the LIGO team’s announcement this month of the first detection of gravitational radiation go without a celebratory comment from the Robert Grosseteste club here.

Robert did, after all, engage in the magisterial De luce in the work of imagining the entire cosmos, and indeed in the propagation of waves across it in the process of its first formation.  Another centrepiece of his thought world was the connection of the universal with the present and microscopic. Continue reading

Unity in Diversity

IMG_404205125th – 28th November 2015, Durham, UK. A group of around 25 people gather for another symposium on the scientific writings of the 13th century English bishop Robert Grosseteste. It’s the first symposium under the umbrella of the generous AHRC grant that started in October. Whilst most academic conferences bring together experts from more or less the same subject area, this symposium is different. Its attendants span the academic disciplines from medieval history to modern vision science, from Middle English to computational cosmology, from church history to physics and applied mathematics, and from linguistics and acoustics to music composition. Continue reading

Generating sounds: help us write our next paper!

IMG_0190IMG_0168At the last Ordered Universe symposium the group made its third, and final, collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s treatise De generatione sonorumOn the Generation of Sounds’. An intriguing, characteristically dense piece of writing, with the usual editorial conundrums, and a strange beauty to its construction, the DGS also sparked a series of reflections from a modern scientific perspective. The treatise deals with the notion of what sound is, showing Grosseteste’s familiarity with Aristotle’s De anima (probably in the translation by Gerard of Cremona), and human vocal production, showing his knowledge of Augustine (354-430) and Boethius (c.480-524) on music, Priscian (flourished around 500) and Isidore of Seville (c.560-636)on grammar and phonetics. However, as always with these works, the question of Grosseteste’s own interests and observations need to be considered, and not merely from the perspective of how he constructs his treatise and orders his thoughts. Continue reading

On the liberal arts and the generation of sounds

lumiere_postcard_21-1024x682Robert Grosseteste suggested in his treatise on the liberal arts that in all areas of human endeavour it is necessary to choose carefully the hour most propitious for the undertaking one wants to carry through. Plants carry more fruit if planted when the celestial spheres are correctly aligned, and base metals are transformed into gold more easily if processed under favourable planets and stars. We no longer believe this to be true, of course, and we may even speculate about the extent to which Robert himself gave credence to such theories; nevertheless, had Robert been around at the Ordered Universe workshop organised in Durham last week, he may have inferred that the organisers had chosen a favourable hour indeed. Discussions and deliberations carried much fruit, and base drafts were transformed into golden light of understanding. A liberating experience indeed, and one which generated the right kinds of sound! Continue reading