Past Research Symposia and Workshops

IMG_576816th – 18th September 2019: ‘Sun Rays, Light Rays, and Bubbles: Robert Grosseteste’s De lineis, De impressionibus elementorum, De natura locorum, De colore, and De iride. 

Pembroke College, University of Oxford, UK

The ninth symposium of the current series, number 25 in all, took place back in the wonderful surroundings of Pembroke College, University of Oxford. The meeting covered collaborative readings of the treatises On LinesOn the Nature of Places (these two really two halves of a single treatise), On the Rainbow, newly edited and translated, On Colour, restranslated, and a revisit of On the Impressions of the Elements. 


13th – 16th May, 2019: ‘The Geometrical Principles of Movement: Robert Grosseteste’s De lineis, De natura locorum, De motu corporali et luce, and De motu supercelestium

Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln, UK

The eighth symposium under the aegis of our current funding from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, and 24th overall in a series stretching now over a decade, took place 13-16 May, at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln. With the treatises On Lines, Angles, and Shapes, and On the Nature of Places, the canon of Grosseteste’s scientific writing is brought to its completion. These two treatises receive their first reading, with collaborative reading on-going for On the Movement of Celestial Bodies, and a final read-through of On Bodily Motion and Light to make up the other parts of our activities. Two symposia remain for our current sequence which will revise the latest treatises and revist On Colour and On the Rainbow.


17th – 20th September, 2018: ‘Light Fantastic!: Robert Grosseteste’s De motu supercelestium, De motu corporali et luce, De cometis and De luce

Trinity College Dublin and Marsh’s Library, Ireland

This symposium, which involved the first visit by the Ordered Universe team to Ireland, explored three treatises in which light plays the dominant role. The symposium featured our final reading of the treatise De cometis – On Comets, and the second run-through of the De more corporali et luce – On Bodily Motion and Light. This last work presages the extraordinary boldness in the role given to light in the fabric of the universe of the De luce – On Light. One of the first treatises read by the Ordered Universe, ten years ago, it was a treat to re-visit this beautiful and intriguing text. Finally we continued our longer and slower read-through of De motu supercelestium – On the Supercelestial Motion. We were honoured to be hosted at Trinity College, Dublin by Dr Laura Cleaver.

Celestial Sea of Stars – NASA public archive

2nd – 5th May, 2018: ‘Guiding Stars, Motion and Light: Robert Grosseteste’s De motu supercelestium, De motu corporali et de luce, and De sex differentiis 

McGill University, Montreal, Canada

This symposium, the first to be held in Canada, will explore three treatises, two for the first time, in which Robert Grosseteste explores celestial and sub-lunary phenomena. The influence of the stars and planets on human society, and on natural phenomena such as comets, are held together in a cosmological exploration which still does not feature light as the dominant element in the universe. The symposium will be held at McGill University, the home institution of Ordered Universe core team member Prof. Faith Wallis. We look forward very much to sharing knowledge and experience in Quebec!

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 32 : des hommes observent la comète de Halley
Tapisserie de Bayeux – Scène 32 : des hommes observent la comète de Halley

7th – 10th January 2018: ‘Space, Place and Elements: Robert Grosseteste’s De cometis, De sex differentiis and De impressionibus elementorum‘.

Pembroke College, Oxford, UK

This symposium was  held in Pembroke College, Oxford, one of the original homes of the Ordered Universe project. The symposium focussed on three treatises, all of which have formed part of Ordered Universe collaborative reading before. De impressionibus elementorum, De cometis and De sex differentiis form the axes on which our activities hinge. None of the treatises are easy to date, but probably date to the 1210s and the early 1220s, with the first hints of the crucial doctrines and methodologies for the middle and later works. The sublimation of matter raised in the De cometis and the construction of the De impressionibus around the resolutio and composito, point towards works like the De luce, De colore and De iride, and the Commentary on Posterior Analytics of the mid and later 1220s.

16th -19th May 2017: ‘Below the Moon: Robert Grosseteste’s De cometis and De impressionibus elementorum‘.

Pembroke College, Oxford, UK

The symposium provided the first collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s treatises On Comets and On the Impressions of the Elements. The first treatise may contain a reference to Halley’s Comet in 1222, which dates the work to the same period. With no obvious knowledge shown of Aristotle’s Meteorology this fits with the chronology of Grosseteste’s treatises with which we are working. Grosseteste shows how comets are sub-lunary phenomena, rather than stars, and is still working with reference to astrology and alchemy. On the Impressions of the Elements marks an important change in thought, however. Light and the activity of light are used to explain meteorological occurrences, now with knowledge of Aristotle’s main works in this area.

31st August-3rd September  2016: Space and Place: T1-8Robert Grosseteste’s De sphera and De differenciis localibus‘.

Durham University, St John’s College, Tristram Room (and other locations).

The symposium provided the second collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s treatise on the nature of the universe and planetary astronomy, On the Sphere. Making its first appearance in the Ordered Universe project roster is the shorter but elegant treatise on the differences of places (De differentiis localibus) in which he explores the notions of place. Up-down, right-left, before-behind are discussed with reference to the fixity of ‘Up’. The symposium will feature a public lecture and forum at St Chad’s College, in the Atrium. Professor Clive Siviour, Department of Engineering and Pembroke College, University of Oxford, presented aspects of his research with high-speed photography, and experiments derived from Grosseteste’s treatise On the Generation of Sounds – and the concept of the sonativum. Those attending will then have the opportunity to talk with Ordered Universe team members  about the project and experience some of its related  interactive experiments and activities.

26th May 2016: 10.30 am – 2.30 pm:Hortus_Deliciarum,_Die_Philosophie_mit_den_sieben_freien_KünstenOn the Utility of the Arts
SCR Dining Room, Hatfield College, Durham UK

A half-day collaborative reading seminar on Robert Grosseteste’s treatise De artibus liberalibus – On the Liberal Arts. Ordered Universe team members from Durham read through the treatise, with particular attention to the sections on medicine and sound.

Rome5th-8th April 2015: The Appliance of Science – Astronomy and the Calendar: Robert Grosseteste’s De sphaera and the Computus Correctorius,’ University of Rome, Tor Vergata and University of Notre Dame, Rome Global Gateway, Italy.

This symposium was the first of its kind to take place outside the UK, and it was a special delight to head to Rome, to the University of Rome, Tor Vergata, in the care of Professor Cecilia Panti, and to be based while in Rome at the University of Notre Dame, Rome Global Gateway as part of the Durham-Notre Dame partnership.  Grosseteste’s treatise De sphaeraOn the Sphere,  in which he explores the physical underpinnings of astronomy, received its first collaborative reading. The work has an existing modern edition made by Professor Panti; Dr Sigbjørn Sønnesyn made the first translation into English. The symposium also features a reading of the Computus Correctorius, Grosseteste’s signal contribution to the medieval science of time, and, in particular, the church calendar. For the English translation, and editorial comments, we are extremely glad to have welcomed Dr Philipp Nothaft, All Soul’s College, University of Oxford, to the Ordered Universe. The symposium included a half-day conference at Tor Vergata, and a public lecture, jointly and bi-lingully delivered by Professor Tom McLeish and Professor Panti at the Notre Dame Gateway. Organisational matters were the province of Dr Rachael Matthews, Ordered Universe Administrative Assistant and Professor Panti. Programme is available here.

IMG_365825th-28th November 2015: On the Liberal Arts and On the Generation of Sounds: Robert Grosseteste’s Early Treatises and Their Reception, Durham University. The symposium, the first under the new funding from the AHRC, gave the second reading of the De liberalibus artibus, On the Liberal Arts, the third of the De generatione sonorum, On the Generation of Sounds, and the first to the whole group of the Middle English treatise the Seven Liberal Arts. The latter incorporates sections of both of the Latin treatises and offers a striking interpretation of Grosseteste’s earlier work. The symposium was organised by Dr Giles Gasper (Durham), Dr Rachael Matthews (Durham) and Dr Sigbjørn Sønnesyn. As well as the collaborative reading sessions, the symposium included a musical excursus by Dr Nicholas Brown, a tour of the Institute of Computational Cosmology by Professor Richard Bower, a manuscript exhibition of the Grosseteste holdings in the Durham Cathedral library collections, and a public lecture by Dr Gasper.

8th-10th April 2015: Knowing and Speaking: On the Generation of Sounds and On the Liberal Arts, Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln. This symposium presented the second reading of Grosseteste’s treatise On the Generation of Sounds and the first for the related On the Liberal Arts, probably Grosseteste’s first scientific treatise. The symposium was organised by Dr Jack Cunningham (BGU) and Dr Giles Gasper (Durham) as the next in the sequence to explore the complete canon of Grosseteste’s scientific works. The symposium was funded principally by Bishop Grosseteste University and the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Durham University Joanna Barker Research Strands. The symposium included a public lecture in Lincoln Cathedral by Professor Richard Bower and a performance of music by Grosseteste’s older contemporary Perotin in the Grosseteste Chapel by members of the Ordered Universe Research project.

2nd-3rd October 2014On the Generation of Sound: 13th Century Science in a Multi-Disciplinary Perspective, Pembroke College, University of Oxford. This workshop explored Grosseteste’s early treatise on sound, with a variety of medieval and scientific specialists. It was funded by the Mahfouz Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research.

3rd-4th March 2014: Robert Grosseteste’s De iride: Antecedents and Analysis, Collingwood College, Durham University – Antecedents and Analysis was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

28th-30th October 2013: The World of Robert Grosseteste 1170-1253: Medieval Science and the Modern Curriculum, Hatfield College, Durham University – Medieval Science and the Modern Curriculum involved schoolteachers from the a variety of regional schools, and introduced the three texts on which we have been working, De colore, De luce and De iride, as well as something of Grosseteste’s world, including medieval food. This workshop was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

25th-29th June 2013De Luce and De iride, as part of and in addition to, the  5th European Congress on Medieval Studies,  Fédération Internationale des Instituts d’Études Médiévales, Secrets and Discovery, with Ordered Universe Workshop Programme. This workshop was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

7th December 2012: ‘De iride (De fraccionibus radiorum): A Medieval Theory of the Rainbow (2)‘, Durham University.

18-19th October 2012: ‘De iride (De fraccionibus radiorum): A Medieval Theory of the Rainbow (1)‘, Collingwood College, Durham University.

9th-10th July 2012: ‘The De luce of Robert Grossteste (d.1253)‘, St John’s College, Durham University.

24th January 2012: ‘The Creation of Light in the Hexaemeron and the De luce of Robert Grosseteste‘, St John’s College, Durham University.

24th June 2011: ‘The Beauty of Nature and Properties: Robert Grosseteste (c.1170-1253), Bartolomaeus Anglicus (c.1203-1272), and 13th century Stained Glass‘, St John’s College, Durham University.

19th February 2011: Robert Grosseteste’s Treatise on Colour, Department of History, Durham University

26th August 2010: ‘Robert Grosseteste c.1170-1253‘, St John’s College, Durham University.

9th July 2010: ‘The Ordered Universe’: Definitions, Historiography, Methodology and Scope, St John’s College, Durham University.