Members of the Ordered Universe team will be in California in January 2019 for the Napa Lighted Art Festival, bringing our favourite blend of medieval history, modern science and mesmerising art to the west coast of the USA for the first time.
This is the first in a series of posts designed to tell you more about each of our events at the Napa Lighted Art Festival and how you can get involved.
Hot off the creative desk – some stills from the first half of Horizon showing at the Napa Lighted Art Festival in January 2019 (12-20) (not so long away!). The show features material from the Ordered Universe project and its research on the scientific works of Robert Grosseteste, as well as material from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA, curated and brought together and transmuted into something amazing by The Projection Studio – Ross Ashton and Karen Monid. Horizon will take viewers on a journey from the 13th century to the 21st, from the medieval universe to the modern, exploring perennial human questions of where we stand, how we should live, and how we are shaped and limited by our horizons.
So, in January, you’ll be able to catch a number of Ordered Universe team members at the Napa Lighted Art Festival. We’re hugely excited about the opportunity which was instigated by Ross Ashton and Karen Monid of The Projection Studio (with whom we have worked very successfully as followers of this blog will surely know). We’ve been working Continue reading →
Ordered Universe will be taking part in the 2019 Leeds International Congress, the largest forum for sharing research on the Middle Ages in Europe. The project has a lot to offer on the special conference theme of ‘Materialities’ so we proposed four sessions and a roundtable, all of which were accepted. The Ordered Universe activities will take place Continue reading →
Professor Brian Tanner, Durham, Department of Physics
Maybe it was happy memories of touring Napa Valley wineries some years ago, but when I was offered the opportunity of taking part in the Napa Lighted Art Festival this coming January, I had no hesitation in accepting. For the past 10 years, Durham (UK) has had a similar event, Lumière, so I am expecting a spectacular visual experience. The Ordered Universe team is participating in the associated public activities series and I relish the thought of sharing my experiences of light in all its forms with residents and visitors to Napa. Colin Rennie and I will present a session ‘Beyond the Visible’ where we will go on a journey from X-Ray Imaging via Radio Astronomy to glass Art, all inspired by the science of the electromagnetic spectrum and one great thinker in particular, the 13thcentury polymath, Robert Grosseteste. The creative fusion between medieval European theories, modern vision science and glass art unlocks artistic inspiration and experience, which always surprises me. It is never what I expect from our artist collaborators.
We will also enjoy showing visitors how simple optics experiments and observations, that they can themselves do with minimal apparatus, have a deep-rooted history in the medieval and classical worlds. I look forward to evenings revelling in the pieces of light art to be projected on to buildings, objects and in spaces. And, of course, there is the wine.
Color est lux incoporata perspicuo – Colour is light incorporated in a transparent medium
Last week we launched the Ordered Universe – OxNet North-East programme for 2018-19. Using the wonderful setting of St Peter’s Church, Sunderland, appropriate for the occasion given its connections to Bede and early medieval scientific thought, we introduced the project and the OxNet programme to about 100 school students, teachers and parents. Dating back to the 670s, St Peter’s, at the mouth of the Wear, formed part of the double monastery of Monkwearmouth and Jarrow. Bede spent his early years at Monkwearmouth, born on the estates of the monastery and spending the rest of life there and at Jarrow.
After a tour of the church, we divided into three groups. Brian Tanner and Sarah Gilbert led a session of medieval and modern astronomy, focusing on comets challenging the students to think their way through ancient and medieval views on the subject. In a similar way Giles Gasper and Jamies Irvine used the Hereford World Map, from the late-thirteenth century as a way to enter the medieval mind and the rather different attitudes towards geography and cosmology. Both sessions were very stimulating, and were intended as tasters of the sort of variety of subjects and our collaborative approach. The sessions were complemented by one for parents, demystifying university application, led by Peter Claus.
A final session featured Peter Claus on the OxNet initiative and its philosophy, Sammy Wright Vice-Principal of Southmoor Academy, three students who had taken the course over the last two years, and then Giles wrapped up with a presentation on Ordered Universe. Moving from Bede to Grosseteste, maps to the cosmos, with astronomy, comets, and interdisciplinary research we hope that that we gave an insight into university life and learning.
To apply for the course please visit: www.ox-net.org/apply_sunderland – the deadline for expressions of interest is 10th December. Please do spread the word – it is one of the high-points of the year for project members. We always learn a lot from the student comments and engagement, the course is demanding but rewarding as a result, and brings you into the heart of a dynamic research project.
Next Monday the OxNet – Ordered Universe programme for 2018-19 launches in the North-East. Organised through the hub school at Southmoor Academy in Sunderland, the programme involves and is open to schools from across the regions. We’ll be holding a taster evening at St Peter’s Church in Sunderland, rich in its connections to the medieval heritage of the region and to the history of science – the church was once home to Bede. Join us for a tour of the church, sessions on Comets – medieval and modern, or Cultural Cosmology, with Brian Tanner, Sarah Gilbert, Jamie Irvine and Giles Gasper, from Durham University (Physics and History Departments), and, for parents a session on student life and myth-busting led by Peter Claus (University of Oxford) and Lee Worden (Durham). The sessions will give an insight into the sorts of activities we’ll run from January to July – evening seminars at St Peter’s on a wide variety of topics and subjects, a residential Easter School at Durham, and the longer residential school at Pembroke College, Oxford. Moving between science and humanities, and medieval and modern thinking, we’ll show the students what it is that we can do at university, the joys and challenges of collaboration, how to ask questions and think more deeply about the world around us. The evening will wrap up with talks from Peter Claus on the OxNet programme and its philosophy, Sammy Wright from Southmoor Academy, Claire Ungley our OxNet North East co-ordinator, two students who attended the course last year, and finally Giles Gasper introducing Ordered Universe.
And in other news we can report a number of talks delivered by Ordered Universe members in recent weeks. Neil Lewis was at the Medieval Studies Institute at Indiana University on October 17, and gave a presentation on ‘Robert Grosseteste and the Ordered Universe: The value of interdisciplinary study for solving textual and interpretative problems’, Giles Gasper gave a paper to the Durham University Centre for Catholic Studies Seminar on the Hexaemeron and Scientific Literacy in the Middle Ages, with a focus on Grosseteste on November 8th, and Nader El-Bizri gave two talks, on Monday 12th November at the Arab School of Astrophysics at American University of Beirut on Ibn al-Haytham, Selenography and Optical Studies on the Light of the Moon, with Ordered Universe as a model. Nader is also to be found tomorrow at the UNESCO sponsor event, ‘Une nuit de la philosophie‘ in Paris, tonight!
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
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. 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…
We’re very pleased to announce that the Ordered Universe website is now hosting a downloadable PDF of the working transcript of Grosseteste’s Dicta prepared by Edwin J. Westermann and Joseph W. Goering. We’re extremely grateful to Professor Goering for making the transcript available in this way, and these fascinating texts open to a wider audience. The PDF is available under Resources-Dicta. We hope that this will be of service and use to all interested in the fields that the Dicta touch upon. The essential starting point for contextualising the Dicta is Professor Goering’s article: ‘Robert Grosseteste’s Dicta: The State of the Question’ in John Flood, James R. Ginther and Joseph W. Goering, eds., Robert Grosseteste and His Intellectual Milieu(Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2013) pp. 64-86.
In addition, thanks to the kind offices of Gordon Jackson, Bishop Grosseteste University, his English translation will also be made available on the website – the first two volumes are to be found under the same page-heading.
Over the last three days, some member of the Ordered Universe have been attending the North American Conference on British Studies at its annual meeting, this year in Providence, Rhode Island. The conference covers all aspects of British culture, from the medieval period to the present-day. So, Ordered Universe research was presented Continue reading →