Past Research Symposia and Workshops

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

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

Pembroke College, University of Oxford

The symposium provides 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 provides 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, presents 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
Durham University, Hatfield College, SCR Dining Room

A half-day collaborative reading seminar on Robert Grosseteste’s treatise De artibus liberalibus – On the Liberal Arts. Ordered Universe team members from Durham will read through the treatise, with particular attention to the sections on medicine and sound. The seminar is open to all: please contact Dr Sigbjørn Sønnesyn ( if you would like to attend.

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.