Porto Experiences Thursday 27th June: De luce, Education and the History of Science

The Lost Legacies Team
The Lost Legacies Team

Thursday and the team kept at it, moving through the rest of the De luce, through the creation of the 9 celestial spheres (they are not named by Grosseteste but presumably followed the pattern 1 First Mover, 2 Fixed Stars, 3 Saturn, 4 Jupiter, 5 Mars, 6 Sun, 7 Venus, 8 Mercury, 9 Moon) and then the four terrestrial ‘spheres’. The property of matter, especially of lux and lumen, the notion of lumen as a very particulararistotle_universe type of body, of spiritual matter (possibly derived from Avicebron [Ibn Gabriol, 1021-1057/8]), were all topics considered. So to was the question of time: the operation of light and matter is not so much a notion as an activity of substantial change, and therefore indendent of time. Continue reading “Porto Experiences Thursday 27th June: De luce, Education and the History of Science”

Porto experiences: Wednesday 26th June: De luce

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The creation of the spheres by the activity of lumen, expanding inwardly.
Lumenocentric universe
First Form, Light, and First Matter form the first sphere, ‘as big as the world machine’.

Wednesday 26th June provided another intense day for discussion and reading. The morning session of the conference featured papers by Cecilia Panti, Neil Lewis and Brian Tanner, chaired by Pietro Rossi. Cecilia presented a detailed exposition of Grosseteste’s use of mathematical sequences within the De luce, especially in its first half. The infinite multiplication of form (light) within matter is a key concern here, and Grosseteste may have been responding to an articulation by Averroes of the difficulties inherent in expressing infinite multiplication. Continue reading “Porto experiences: Wednesday 26th June: De luce”

De colore – impressions from a first-time, non-medieval, reader

I started my reading about Grosseteste and his scientific works with ‘The Dimensions of Colour’ on the De colore. Although when reading the translation I couldn’t picture Grosseteste’s model in my head, I was baffled by its complexity and sophistication. Such an abstract account of the phenomenon of colour was certainly not what I expected from a medieval scholar and theologian, who later in his life even became bishop. Furthermore, I found that the critical edition and translation broadened my horizon not only with respect to the content of the treatise, but also concerning the challenge of establishing in the first place what the original content was. As I said, I know embarrassingly little about history and the methods involved in the discipline, and it was very interesting to see how the multitude of diverging manuscripts can be a caveat to appreciating the coherence of medieval scientific thought.Continue reading “De colore – impressions from a first-time, non-medieval, reader”

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 “Porto experiences: arrivals and first sessions”

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 “The Grosseteste Project and being involved as a student”

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 “Porto, O, Porto: Congress Programme and Plans”

Greti at the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences/Canadian Society of Medievalists

Greti Dinkova-Bruun, one of the core team members for the Ordered Universe/Grosseteste Science project gave a paper in early June to the 2013 Congress of of the Humanities and Social Sciences/Canadian Society of Medievalists June 1-8, at the University of Victoria in Canada. The session was a roundtable on Grosseteste’s letter collection, and also to honour the translation made by Joe Goering and Frank Mantello (which won the Grosseteste LettersCanadian Society of Medievalists Margaret Wade Labarge Prize. Greti spoke on  ‘The Franciscans and Light in the Letters of Robert Grosseteste’ in a session which included Irven Resnick and Marc Cels.

Physics of De Luce Hots Up

Recent working meeting with Richard Bower, Hannah Smithson, Tom McLeish and Brian Tanner worked through the surprisingly subtle physics issues of balancing luminous drag and absorption as the celestial spheres crystallise out.
Another surprise is the strong effect of the initial matter distribution (following the original expansion). Well behaved universes of the Aristotelian type seem to require steep initial density distributions, though this requirement may be balanced by sufficient absorption within the shells. Would Grosseteste be surprised to hear that for his universe to work, the heavenly spheres need to possess only partial transparency to “lumen”?
Somewhere in there is not just a medieval universe, but a medieval “multiverse”. All possible numbers of planetery spheres – and other universes where the density goes chaotic and non-monotonic. The initial density profile looks important too … more when the movie comes out!

Grosseteste in 3D

Grosseteste’s De luce, on which the team has been working for the last 18 months or so (and in the case of Neil and Cecilia considerably longer) explains the creation of the Aristotelian universe, and the series of celestial spheres, contrasting the perfect and stable universe above the moon, with the more unpredictable regions beneath. In the course of this exposition of Aristotle, and many other classical authorities Grosseteste deploys considerable mathematical explanation. Addressing the question of body, and how matter can be energised, he posits a universe expanding from a single point of light

Lumenocentric universe

 (Lux) (the force capable of extending matter), which diffuses spherically until a stasis point, a point of perfect rarefaction (and minimum density) where light no longer has the force to move matter forward. This stasis creates the first sphere.Continue reading “Grosseteste in 3D”