Grosseteste – a theologian and scientist. Or: Did Grosseteste see a science-religion divide? Further Reflections on the Network…

To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of studying Grosseteste is that he wrote about both theology and science (in the medieval sense). The first-time, non-medieval reader is quick to ask herself whether Grosseteste had some split-brain features; after all IMG_1326religion and science often take opposing stances in contemporary debates. As Giles Gasper mentioned in his conference presentation at Porto, Grosseteste didn’t comment explicitly on how he saw the relationship between these two areas of interests. However, the scholars explained that in medieval times there was not yet the conceptual divide between religion and science. Instead, the elucidation of natural phenomena was thought of as giving depth to the wonders of God’s creation. Nonetheless, it is striking that Grosseteste, who was to become bishop of Lincoln later on, didn’t explicitly frame his scientific treatises in theological terms. Nonetheless, under closer inspection of the De luce, there are some references and fundamental assumptions that seem to hint at his theological commitments. Continue reading

Interdisciplinarity – chances and challenges

It took me some time to realise how rare truly interdisciplinary work is at the research level. For me as an undergraduate student, cross-subject talk within friendship groups is something that I have always taken for granted. Since I have been introduced to the Ordered Universe Project I have learned firstly that only few scholars and scientists collaborate with each other, and secondly that such collaboration bears the potential for a uniquely broad and deep perspective. To see how researchers from humanities and sciences work together in an open-minded, patient and accommodating fashion has been very impressive, as this research methodology allows for an elucidation of Grosseteste’s writings at multiple different levels. Continue reading

Medicine, Science and a Porto Perspective

En route to Porto – lay-over in Lisbon Airport…

I first heard about The Ordered Universe Project in a seminar led by Giles Gasper and Tom McLeish at Durham last autumn. As someone who specialises in medieval medicine and gender, I was initially fascinated by their willingness to combine medieval science with modern physics, yet I was unaware of what contribution (if any) I could ever bring to such a combining of minds. Medieval medicine, though within the same frame of understanding as medieval science, was a very different thing to what Grosseteste was trying to do. Or at least that is what I originally thought. Continue reading

Why the scientists?

Bridging humanities and sciences
Bridging humanities and sciences

At the heart of the Ordered Universe Project is the interdisciplinary collaboration between medievalists and scientists. In this way light is shed onto Grosseteste’s scientific work from very different angles, and this allows for an all-around and in-depth elucidation of his writings. That medievalists contribute to our understanding of medieval science seems straightforward and not a subject of debate. However, doubts are more likely to be raised about whether modern scientists can add anything useful at all in this endeavour.  Like many others who first hear about the Ordered Universe Project I was having these very doubts before joining the group during the FIDEM congress. Continue reading

The educational strand – ideas from the student perspective

When I first read about the idea of linking the Ordered Universe Project to education, I was fascinated by the parallel drawn between knowledge development across time, within the individual on the one hand and in the history of science on the other. It seems to me to be an intriguing suggestion that there may be some overlap between the conceptual caveats that in medieval times hindered (what we now believe to be) accurate understanding and those that make scientific reasoning difficult for children and teenagers. Within the group of students taking part in the FIDEM congress, we have thought a lot about what benefits the Ordered Universe Project could bring to pupil and student learning. This is because we are still very much at the recipient end of the knowledge spectrum, and for some of us school education is still very recent. Continue reading

Porto experiences: arrivals and first sessions


So the Porto conference and workshops were upon us, eighteen members of the Lost Legacies Network, the Ordered Universe Durham Grosseteste Project set off for Porto from their various locations: Durham, Oxford, Oban, Munster, Washington D.C., Toronto, Montreal, Rome and Turin.

Giles, Per, Lydia, Dorothy and Sam at Lisbon Airport

Flying via Manchester,
myself, Per Kind, Dorothy Warren, Lydia Harris and

Tastes of Lisbon...but we were soon on the way to Porto
Tastes of Lisbon…but we were soon on the way to Porto

Sam Sargeant met up in Lisbon for transfer to Porto. A long journey, but the work and discussion about the project had already started on the aeroplane and would continue for the whole week. It was a great week in which to be part of the inter-disciplinary discussion, and also to observe the group dynamics and changing perceptions. The Hotel Ipanema Porto was hospitable, the FIDEM Congress equally so, and Porto a wonderful setting for our joint enterprise. And we were straight away to work… Continue reading

The Grosseteste Project and being involved as a student

My name is Ulrike, and I just finished the second year of my undergraduate degree in Psychology with Philosophy at Oxford. The first time I heard about the Grosseteste project was at a drinks reception we had with our College tutors. We asked Hannah about the various research strands she is involved in, and it came as a surprise to hear about an interdisciplinary group of scholars and scientists who interpret the scientific writings of a medieval philosopher and theologian. That out of all my tutors, the perception expert would collaborate with experts from the humanities was all the more unexpected, given that perception is probably at the very hardcore science end of the psychology spectrum. I remember asking tentatively what the point of such a joint project would be, (I really hope I found a more subtle way of saying this back then). I don’t trust my memory enough to now quote Hannah’s answer, and I’m sure you are familiar with it anyway. If not, I definitely recommend asking her about it because it was certainly very interesting. Back then, I was definitely very intrigued by this approach of doing both history and science in symbiosis. However, I couldn’t quite picture how this would actually work, and how fruitful the conclusions drawn would be for either field. Continue reading

Porto, O, Porto: Congress Programme and Plans

Well, the Porto meeting of the FIDEM congress is just over a week away.


Papers are being finished, the panels are all organised, travel arrangements in place. The programme for the congress is here: Program_Secrets. We are very grateful to Jose Mereinhos and his team for all of their efforts, and especially in accommodating the Ordered Universe Grosseteste Project’s particular requests. Continue reading

Ordered Universe Sessions at Porto

Cafe Majestic in Porto
Cafe Majestic in Porto

These are the details of the three formal sessions we have organised for the FIDEM Congress in Porto: focusing on the treatises on light and on colour. Each session has a mingling (to use a Grossetestian phrase) of scientific and humanities based scholars; all of which are needed to convey the richness and depth of these wonderful, and original expositions of Aristotle together with his Arabic commentators. The De luce we date to about 1225, the De iride is one of the last scientific texts Grosseteste composed, dated to 1228-1230.

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