July Catch-Up – Ordered Universe at the Leeds International Medieval Congress

It has been a busy summer season already for the Ordered Universe project. July began with the International Medieval Congress at Leeds. An annual gathering for medievalists, and one of the largest, busiest, and most dynamic in the field, the congress took as its 2019 theme ‘Materialities’. Which suited the project very well. A series of four sessions and a round-table were proposed and accepted – all on Tuesday 2nd July. Tom McLeish, Nicola Polloni, and Francesca Galli led off on Grosseteste and light, from considerations of his view on matter, to light and preaching manuals, and the treatises On Light and On the Six Differentiae. The second session featured Hannah Smithson and Giles Gasper on different aspects of sight and optics, covering the treatises On ColourOn the RainbowOn the Liberal Arts, On Lines and Angles and On the Nature of Places, as well as some of Grosseteste’s Dicta.

After lunch our third session involved Brian Tanner, Philipp Nothaft, and Anne Mathers on comets, Grosseteste’s Compotus, and weather prediction. The new edition of the Compotus is out and available from OUP, and other booksellers! Anne also has a new book on medieval meteorology out with CUP soon. The fourth and final session focused on Grosseteste and sound, with Joshua Harvey and Sigbjørn Sønnesyn, exploring the experimental and source critical aspects to On the Generation of Sounds.  So, we covered quite a lot of Grosseteste’s scientific corpus!

Our final presentation was a round-table, chaired by Tom McLeish, and involving representatives of the wide range of disciplines that compose the project: Laura Cleaver (Art History), Brian Tanner (Physics), Cate Watkinson (Glass Art), Clive Siviour (Engineering), and Giles Gasper (History). A wide-ranging discussion of the implications of inter- or multi-disciplinarity, the evolution of the project, outputs and experience, and the delight that we all share in learning more about each other’s work and insights, the past, and the world around us. Thank you very much to all of the participants, the audiences for talks and round-tables, and the IMC for selecting our proposals! More to come soon…

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Knowing and Speaking…

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News on the first volume of six from the Ordered Universe presenting the scientific works of Robert Grosseteste. The first volume is avialable for pre-order from both the Oxford University Press website and at Amazon (UK and others). The first volume has a shipping weight of 739 grams and is 640 pages in total, and features 19 co-authors (it is not an edited volume but a co-authored monograph, under the aegis of Ordered Continue reading

Ordered Universe at the Leeds IMC

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As followers of the Ordered Universe will know the project will be represented in four sessions and a round-table at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds. All sessions take place on Tuesday 2nd July, and work around the conference theme of materiality. We move from the physics of light and dimensions of materiality, to theories of vision, Continue reading

New Publication

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A new publication from Ordered Universe science colleagues Josh Harvey, Hannah Smithson and Rebekah White, inspired, in its first stages, by the collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s On the Generation of Sounds, and its emphases on different types of motion, and the relation of written letters to the shape of the vocal tract in voicing the letter. ‘Hand-Foot Coupling: An Advantage for Crossed Legs‘ is published in Perception, and makes fascinating reading.

 

Ordered Universe at Leeds International Medieval Congress, 2019

Ordered Universe will be taking part in the 2019 Leeds International Congress, the largest forum for sharing research on the Middle Ages in Europe. The project has a lot to offer on the special conference theme of ‘Materialities’  so we proposed four sessions and a roundtable, all of  which were accepted. The Ordered Universe activities will take place Continue reading

Inspiring Young Minds with Old Thinking

A blog from Thomas Henderson, Durham University, History undergraduate, and recipient of a Laidlaw Scholarship, attached to the project for the next two years.

Last week, the Ordered Universe enjoyed a prominent role in OxNet Access Week summer school at Pembroke College, Oxford. Run under the aegis of Dr Peter Claus, the programme is designed to introduce sixth-formers to the realities of university life, study and research (about which more can be read in the previous post). The week’s programme took its title – ‘The World Machine’ – from the project, and placed particular emphasis on the demands of interdisciplinarity. In introducing the summer school as a whole, Giles Gasper urged the 16- and 17-year-olds to ignore the boundaries they were used to, and to shed the fear of appearing stupid or wrong – skills necessary both for interdisciplinary research and the transition from further to higher education.

As such, the separate streams of Humanities, Science and Theology, though operating in parallel, were regularly combined in shared lectures given by members of the Ordered Universe project: Hannah Smithson lecturing on colour perception, Tom McLeish on the role of inspiration in scientific research, Richard Bower on Cosmology, medieval and modern, and Giles Gasper on the Grosseteste’s life, times and scientific output. Working in the college’s chapel, Alexandra Carr produced an arresting light-based multimedia sculpture; an impressive achievement considering her short time frame. This, along with her talks given with Giles Gasper encouraged the students to think about their subjects in more creative, original ways.

In addition to this broad interdisciplinary approach, the Ordered Universe had its own teaching strand. This centred on collaborative reading of Robert Grosseteste’s De luce and De colore, along with lectures, and a successful seminar on sound given by Joshua Harvey. More intensive tutorials were run by Ordered Universe contributors Joshua Harvey and Tim Farrant, with Tom Henderson and Alexandra Haigh together tutoring a third group. Though the work was undoubtedly challenging, the sixth-formers rose magnificently to meet it, making insightful contributions. It was immensely gratifying for tutors to watch as the students grew in confidence over the course of the week, taking to heart Giles Gasper’s assurance that “there are no stupid questions”.

Students’ feedback showed that, while they found the work more difficult than they were used to, their experience of the Ordered Universe project had been immensely rewarding. It was clear that they had internalised the projects principles, looking beyond narrow conceptions of individual disciplines to be more curious and adventurous in their thinking.

New Ordered Universe Publication

The Ordered Universe project is pleased to announce its latest publication, for the Applied Optics journal, Vol. 56 (2017), G197-G204, and fully open access. The experiments and writing of the paper were led and marshalled by expertly  Joshua Harvey (Mellon Foundation funded graduate student at Oxford University, Dept of Engineering Science and Pembroke college), with assistance from other members of the team, from the sciences and humanities. The paper focuses on the middle part of Grosseteste’s treatise On the Rainbow (De iride) and the shape that the rainbow forms in the sky. This precedes discussion of the colours of the rainbow, covered in other Ordered Universe papers. The current paper offers an historical context for the treatise before moving to the main discussion, testing Grosseteste’s optical thought with physical experiment and physics-based simulation. The results are available below, and show, again, the benefits of collaborative working to unlock problems posed by thinkers of the past.

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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.

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!

The next scientific breakthrough…and the past

A short notice that Tom, Giles and Hannah have published a discussion piece in The Conversation, thinking through the inspiration that past engagement with natural phenomena can have on modern scientific thinking. Einstein, superconductivity, rainbows and ne0-classicism: it’s all here: The next scientific breakthrough

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