Exhibition at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland

Absolutely thrilled to announce an upcoming exhibition at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. Artists Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie, with contributions from MA and PhD students from the Centre will be creating a fantastic array of installations, all based on Grosseteste’s treatises on light, colour and the rainbow. The exhibition will run from October 2017 to February 2018 at the Glass Centre.

Amongst the pieces to be created are pillars of colour casting shadow and reflection, and an exploded rainbow, with sequences of colour moving and blending into each other:

Other pieces will work with medieval imagery and text; all will be exploring Grosseteste’s idea that Colour is Light ‘Color est lux’. Or, as he put in his Commentary on the Genesis Creation story, a constant mediation and mingling of the elements:

Nor should anyone think that the earth could not have been coloured at the beginning, given that colour is light in a diaphanous medium and light was not yet created. In fact, if the creation of things was successive the fire was mixed with this solid earth since the beginning, as it is now; and the incorporation of its light (that is: the fire-light) in the moisture of the earth made the earth coloured. In fact, these elements that we perceive around us are not pure, but mixed with each other, and are named from the element that predominates.
[Hexaemeron 4.7.2: ed. Richard C. Dales and Servus Gieben (Oxford, 1982); translated by C.F.J. Martin as On the Six Days of Creation (Oxford, 1996)]

Flowing from the Through A Glass Darkly collaboration the exhibition also forms part of the City of Sunderland’s bid for UK City of Culture. It really is amazing to see the continued inspiration that Grosseteste’s thinking moves and shapes, and to see different levels of analysis, interpretation and explanation of these texts through glass.

We’ll be creating a Vlog to track the progress of the making – many thanks to Claire Todd – and to whet your appetites for the exhibition, in its various modes: meditative and explosive by turns.

Medieval and Modern Science at Ely

On 11th February, Hannah and Giles were given a very warm welcome at Ely, at an open seminar organised by the Bishop of Huntingdon, Rt Revd David Thomson. David is also an Ordered Universe stalwart, taking the lead particularly on the Middle English version of some of Grosseteste’s earliest treatises. It was an especial pleasure, therefore, to be invited to Ely to present the project and its current work, some of the most recent scientific elements, and to participate in a lively and instructive question and answer session. We explored the life and times of Grosseteste, the context for his scientific works, and research into his rainbow treatise with Hannah’s ongoing work on retinal imaging.

We then ran a collaborative reading session on Grosseteste’s treatise On Colour. This was very stimulating, and, no matter how many times we read the text, new thoughts and and new interpretations arise. In this case the ideas were generated by the excellent and thoughtful participants. The event was run in the Old Palace, and our thanks go to all of the organisers, those who attended and to Bishop David. Certainly we came away with fresh insights. We then enjoyed a guided tour of the Cathedral, taken especially to see the Prior’s Door, with it’s magnificent carvings, including the zodiac. A stunning way to round off our visit to Ely. Thanks to all who made it possible!

Colour, Light, Glass and Exploding Rainbows

Our Through a Glass Darkly meeting last week gave a considerable amount of food for thought. Catching up with the progress that the Ordered Universe team have made on Grosseteste’s treatises over the last three symposia On the Liberal Arts, On the Generation of SoundsOn the Six DifferencesOn the Sphere and the very first glimpses of On Comets was a reminder, again, of the range, complexity and beauty of his thought. The themes of body and of movement, of the influence of bodies on one another and the interplay of authoritative models and the natural world around him, emerge in these discussions in a powerful and prominent manner. We can see more clearly the three stages through which Grosseteste’s thought moves, from an alchemical, elemental and astrological view of the universe, to one dominated by light and embodied light at that, to the influence of light rays. These modes are not discreet, but overlapping, and are not presented by Grosseteste as contradictory to each other. His condemnation of judicial astrology in the Hexaemeron, for example, is orthodox and Augustinian, astrology cannot take the place of free will and must not be imagined to come to to doing so. At the same time Grosseteste reveals a frustration with technological inadequacies that render accurate measurement of time and space too difficult to make predictive judgment from star-gazing possible. Continue reading

Annual Edward Delaval Lecture in Physics – University of Lincoln

Tom McLeish wil deliver the Annual Edward Deleval Lecture in Physics at the University of Lincoln on November 16th. Tom will be talking on: Medieval Science and the Ordered Universe Project. The lecture is open to the public and takes place at 6 pm in the EMMTEC Lecture Theatre, Brayford Pool Campus, University of Lincoln. We have a short interview with Tom Continue reading

Ordered Universe in Brussels

On the 15th June, Giles, Cecilia and Sigbjørn took the Ordered Universe project on the road to Brussels, and, in particular, the Université Libre de Bruxelles. An invitation by Professor Christian Brouwer, Department  of Philosophy and Director of the Bibliothèque des Science Humaines, to present the concept and results of the project in a seminar was an excellent opportunity. Christian and Odile Gilon ran a reading and translation group focused on the De luce of Robert Grosseteste, using Cecilia’s critical editionIt was, therefore, to an expert seminar that we made our presentation, with colleagues including Anja van Rompaey.

The presentation moved from the historical context, the purpose of the Ordered Universe collaboration (the provision of editions, translations, and analyses of Grosseteste’s scientific opuscula), and the nature  of the collaboration in action. Some discussion of our most recent work on the treatise De artibus liberalibus followed, before Cecilia took on the question of Grosseteste’s development of a unitary understanding for first the cause. From the power of celestial bodies, to light, to the notion of radiation, it is clear that Grosseteste’s overriding concern was to consider what the first cause of motion might be. Sigbjørn gave details of some of the problems we have encountered in making the new editions and the solutions we have adopted. A summary of some of the scientific results of the project, modelling the medieval universe and the natural rainbow formed the final section (delivered by humanities scholars – but that we can do so is all part of the spirit of the collaboration!), and the cascade of artistic projects attached to various aspects of Ordered Universe research on Grosseteste. We finished with a showing of the World Machine projection.

A very engaging discussion ensued on the textual problems, how to relate Grosseteste’s different interests to each other especially the issues concerned with theology and science. Wider issues such as mathematical theologies, particularly as articulated by David Albertson, and Grosseteste’s intellectual inheritances, also formed part of the discussion.

Collaboration between the ULB Grosseteste Reading Group and Ordered Universe is very much in formation, and this will be of great benefit to the project.We’re delighted to be forging closer bonds with Christian and his team, one of whom, Anja, will be based in Oxford next year for  post-doctoral fellowship. Greater access to Grosseteste’s scientific works is perhaps the primary aim of the Ordered Universe and it is heart-warming to see this taking place. We will post regularly on the Brussels-Ordered Universe activities, and look forward to seeing our Belgian colleagues soon! The Ordered Universe project members were very grateful for their generous welcome and hospitality and the opportunity to get to know Brussels better.

New Publication: Grosseteste and Religious and Scientific Learning

Robert Grosseteste and the pursuit of Religious and Scientific learning in the Middle-Ages. (Springer 2016) Eds. Jack P. Cunningham & M. Hocknull. DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-33468, ISBN 978-3-319-33466-0. No. of pages 401. No. of illustrations 16 colour. £86.00.

July 2016 will see the publication of the proceedings of the 3rd international Robert Grosseteste Conference which took place in Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln in July Continue reading

Through a Glass Darkly – Creative Collaboration Seminar 1

Grosseteste Poster 1

Next Tuesday, 31st May, sees the first activity in the collaboration between the Ordered Universe and the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, Through a Glass Darkly. We have a day of creative collaboration across a wide range of media. Brian, Giles, Hannah, Clive, Josh, Ana Dias – a PhD student in medieval manuscript illumination at Durham, with Ross Ashton, Alexandra Carr and Alan Fentiman, will explore Grosseteste’s scientific opuscula with Cate Watkinson, Colin Rennie and undergraduate and postgraduate students at the National Glass Centre. Continue reading

About What It Takes: Assumptions About Skill Sets in the Humanities and Sciences

20140320_10553120140320_105649From relatively early on in school, young people start to think of themselves as ‘more sciency’ or ‘more of a humanities or languages person’. With these two poles, to one of which many students sooner or later find themselves gravitating, we tend to associate different personality attributes and skills. For humanities subjects, creative and outside-the-box thinking is deemed to be important, and we tend to expect people in the humanities to have a vivid imagination and maybe also an elaborate, ornate writing style. For the natural sciences, by contrast, we assume that what’s needed is sharpness and coherence of thought, quickness of the mind, and maybe most importantly, good quantitative reasoning skills.

Continue reading

Medieval Rainbows at Cambridge Mathematics

The Cambridge University Mathematics Campus and one of its more famous denizens.
The Cambridge University Mathematics Campus and one of its more famous denizens.

Ordered Universe Co-investigator Tom McLeish was invited down to the Cambridge Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) to talk about the project in that famous institution’s regular ‘fluids’ seminar series. Continue reading

AHRC-Ordered Universe at the Cheltenham Science Festival

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It was a enormous privilege to represent the AHRC at the Cheltenham Science Festival. From the first application to take the Ordered Universe project to the Festival, to the intensive media and presentation workshop at Polaris House, and then to working with the AHRC and Festival co-ordinators, it has been an exciting and supportive journey. The session we presented, ‘Robert Grosseteste: The Greatest Scientist You’ve Never Heard Of…’, started with FullSizeRender 7Tom introducing Grosseteste’s physics of light, and the impact of this on his cosmology, especially in the treatise On Light, the De luce. The IMG_2517Cheltenham audience were extremely receptive: when Tom outlined the creation of the medieval universe from a single point of light, expanding spherically….in its eerie echoing of the Big Bang you could see the audience lean forward. Continue reading