Heat, Comets, and Collaboration: a post by Dr Seb Falk

The 18th Ordered Universe symposium – and the fourth held under the sponsorship of the Arts and Humanities Research Council – took place in Oxford, at Pembroke College,  on 17-19 May. We were wonderfully hosted by the College, with lunches and dinners held in its magnificent Victorian Gothic hall; the symposium organisation Continue reading

Below the Moon: Comets, Heat and Water

The next Ordered Universe symposium takes place in the week to come, May 17-19, at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. It will be great to be back at Pembroke, one of the original homes of the project, and to be broaching two new treatises for collaborative reading. These comprise the De cometis – On Comets and the De impressionibus elementorum; the latter connected to argument on the genesis, nature and activity of comets, the latter a discussion of meteorological phenomena, mostly watery (dew, hail, snow and rain). The reading sessions will be using the edition of the De cometis by Cecilia Panti, with translations of the two works, and a draft edition of the De impressionibus by Sigbjørn Sønnesyn. We will be welcoming some new participants to the group, as well as Ross Ashton and Karen Monid from the Projection Studio. The treatises under scrutiny reveal Grosseteste more at home with Aristotelian methodology, and articulating a more scientific approach to physical problems. Key aspects of his thought on sublimation, on light and on grounds for verification and falsification make their appearance, as do a range of different sources alongside Aristotle. The symposium organisation is  principally by the Oxford team, under Hannah Smithson, and the project is extremely grateful to the efforts of Joshua Harvey, Tim Farrant and Clive Siviour, as well as the College conference staff. Set course for Oxford and we’re off! Look out for reports on the progress of the meeting – a copy of the programme is appended here in PDF and also available at Issuu.

New Podcast: Tom McLeish at University College Dublin’s Institute for Discovery

Tom McLeish talking to Dr Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain from University College Dublin, about interdisciplinary, Ordered Universe, and wider themes concerning science, faith and creativity.

Ordered Human Project Launches Today

Jack Cunningham’s Ordered Human project, based at Bishop Grosseteste University, launches today. The project puts together medievalists and  modern educationalists in order to unravel the teachings of Grosseteste on the subject of how and why we learn. More details on the project and conference are available here. This is an exciting venture, and one that the Ordered Universe project is keen to support.

Ordered Universe Reading Group (Durham)

OU Reading Group Easter-1A short notice to say that our informal reading group will be continuing during Easter term at Durham University. Our first meeting of the term will take place on the 22nd May at 3pm in Seminar Room 2 at Durham University’s Department of History. The reading group will examine the Natural Questions of Seneca (c. 4 BC-AD 65) to think about contrasts and comparisons with medieval authors such as Adelard of Bath and Robert Grosseteste.

All reading will be in English, with reference to the Latin text of the Natural Questions as appropriate.

Please do feel free to pass information around – in the first instance this is intended for staff and graduate students at Durham, other inquiries to attend will be decided on a case by case basis.

If you’d like to register interest please contact Giles Gasper or Tom McLeish (g.e.m.gasper@durham.ac.uk – t.c.b.mcleish@durham.ac.uk).

The Nebula image in the poster is reproduced from HubbleSite STISci.

Experiments in Space, Time and the Body

Thursday and Friday last week, 19th and 20th of April, saw the latest colloquium in the Ordered Universe programme. This time the focus was on the medieval science of time-reckoing – Compotus. To this science Grosseteste made a notable, and highly original contribution, in the 1220s. The colloquium took the theme of compotus, using the beautiful, tiny, and beguiling Durham Cathedral Library Manuscript Hunter 100, as a fulcrum, on which to balance thoughts about the inheritance and legacy of scientific learning as related to time-reckoning from the late tenth century to Grosseteste. In this way too we explored the context for and background too Grosseteste’s compotus, as well as the context for Hunter 100, and the wider dimensions of what medieval science meant, and how it related to the wider experiences of life in the period. Ordered Universe regulars Faith Wallis, Sigbjørn Sønnesyn, Giles Gasper, Philipp Nothaft and Sarah Gilbert were joined by a range of other experts, from graduate students to established scholars, Ana Dias, Eric Ramírez Weaver, Helen Foxhall Forbes, Charlie Rozier, Alfred Lohr and Jonathon Turnock. In the wonderful surroundings of All Souls College, and the Hovenden Room, two extremely stimulating days flashed past.

The first day began with Helen Foxhall Forbes on scientific learning from the late tenth century to the early twelfth, looking in particular at a group of manuscripts – science compilations include compotistical material, and scribes in the south-west of England, in the Kingdom of Wessex. The array of networks demonstrated between religious houses and centres of learning, between England and Francia, and between generations, as well as the reasons why collections were made, used and re-used, raised themes which continued throughout the colloquium. Charlie Rozier took on the question of historical learning and scientific albums, and experiments with chronology, at Durham, and elsewhere in the early twelfth century. The Star Catalogue of Hunter 100, lavishly and beautifully illustrated (the more striking in so small a book), gave Eric Ramírez Weaver a fantastic platform to think about the Carolingian or later Antique models from which the illustrations may have been drawn, and how those models were moulded and transformed in a local setting. A wider reflection on the exuberance and fun on display in the manuscript raised the question of experimentation with form and content again. Visual evidence was explored in a different dimension by Jonathan Turnock, with a consideration of the sculptural schemes of Durham Cathedral Priory and its environs created at about the same time as Hunter 100. The relation between media and motifs between illustration and carving was fascinating to consider. Ana Dias returned to the detail of the manuscript illustrations themselves, developing a methodology to identify those who drew the figures, and their possible employment in other Durham manuscripts. Sarah Gilbert drew the day to a close with an in-depth palaeographical analysis of the manuscript, piecing together the number of scribes that contributed to its production – by the evidence a true community effort!

Our second day moved to wider contexts for the consideration of Hunter 100 and twelfth and thirteenth century compotus. Faith Wallis discussed how scientific albums such as Hunter 100 were designed to be read, with a scheme as meditative as it was instructive, moving the reader from earth to the heavens and back to the human body. How different collections deal with similar questions, and the question why Hunter 100 was produced provoked a lively debate. Philipp Nothaft gave depth and detail to the question of networks and experiments with chronology, with a treatment of the reception of the chronicle of Marianus Scottus (d. 1087), and its abbreviation by Robert of Hereford, and the status of the version of the abbreviation in Hunter 100. How these texts moved around is a key debate. Giles Gasper took the theme of correction from the later eleventh century to Grosseteste, a theme essential to compotus, to think through some of the implications of how time-reckoning and correction of the calendar, fitted into and held to forge, some of the dominant questions of the period, in their social as well as their intellectual setting. Sigbjørn Sønnesyn drew attention back to the practice of monastic reading, the framework of divine reading (lectio divina), with the Cistercian monk Isaac of Stella, and Grosseteste as models. To consider scientific albums as part of this process of slow and guided reading, with stress on experience and meditation, reinforced Faith’s points earlier in the day. Finally, with Alfred Lohr’s magisterial presentation we considered the compotus of Grosseteste, and how different it was to its twelfth century precursors. Similairities remain but Grosseteste’s focus on the mathematical was singled out. Alfred and Philipp reported on the progress of their critical edition – and its relation to the scientific opuscula, which form the emphasis of the Ordered Universe project.

A wonderful few days, in highly stimulating surroundings and company! Thanks go especially to Philipp and the All Souls staff for impeccable hosting, to Rosalind Green for organisational matters, and to all of the contributors. Experiment, dialogue, exchange and collaboration make everything possible.

Jack Cunnigham on ‘In Our Time’

Ordered Universe core research team member Jack Cunningham, from Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln, features on In Our Time in a programme dedicated to Roger Bacon, which aired on Thursday 20th April. Together with Amanda Power (University of Oxford), and Elly Truitt (Bryn Mawr College), Jack discusses with Melvyn Bragg the life and legacy of Bacon, including his relationship and debt to Robert Grosseteste. Do take the time to download and listen!

Visiting Fellowship in Oxford: Cecilia Panti

The Ordered Universe project is very pleased to announce a Visiting Fellowship at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, for Prof. Cecilia Panti, for the month or so. Cecilia, an original member of the project, is the foremost expert on Grosseteste’s scientific works, including critical editions of the treatises On LightOn the SphereOn the Super-Celestial Motions, and On Comets. She is also an expert on music in the Middle Ages, and the reception of Boethius and Augustine in this regard, has written widely on Roger Bacon and is co-investigator on a project with Professor Nicholas Temple, University of Huddersfield on ‘Lorenzo Ghiberti’s 3rd Commentary: Translation and Commentary’, supported by a British Academy/Leverhulme small grant award. These among wide interests in medieval philosophy, and further afield. Cecilia is a core member of the Ordered Universe project, and her time in Oxford will be a wonderful opportunity for the project’s work. We are very grateful to Pembroke College for arranging matters so smoothly.

Compotus, Correction and Regulation

Fresh from the recent conference at Georgetown University, on the dynamic coupling of aspectus and affectus, the next Ordered Universe colloquium takes another theme close to Grosseteste’s heart: calendrical reform and its related subjects, time, astronomy, medicine, as well as the dating of Easter. The colloquium takes place next week on the 19th and 20th April, at All Souls College, University of Oxford. We will be taking a longer view of compotus in England, and the background to Grosseteste’s own characteristic contribution to the area, the Compotus correctorius. Principally the scholars gathering in Oxford will examine Durham Cathedral Manuscript Hunter 100, a computistical album from the early twelfth century. Investigating the antecedents, and the details of the compendium, allows different light to be shed onto the culture of medieval scientific investigation. Exploring both the texts and images, as well as the communities in and for which the manuscript was produced, the colloquium will provide an in-depth analysis. Other papers will broaden the scope, thinking about the implications of compotus texts from theological and societal perspectives, before ending with a full treatment and discussion of Grosseteste’s place in compotus studies, and the importance of the Compotus correctorius in his scientific canon. With experts including Faith Wallis, Eric Ramírez Weaver, Alfed Lohr and Philipp Nothaft, as well as Ordered Universe regulars, the programme looks exciting!

Hunter 100 Poster 1

We are extremely grateful to All Souls College, and especially to Dr Philipp Nothaft for supporting the colloquium, financially and organisationally as to Durham University and Dr Rosalind Green in the same capacity.