Grosseteste goes public: disseminating medieval and modern science

IMG_2853IMG_2856The Mahfouz Forum on Grosseteste’s De generatione sonorum (On the generation of sound) culminated in a set of public lectures held in the Pichette Auditorium of Pembroke College. With this having been the third time that I got to enjoy being part of an Ordered Universe gathering, I had heard before some elements of these talks given by Tom McLeish, Giles Gasper, Hannah Smithson and Richard Bower. But far from making the experience repetitive, it has been very inspiring to see how the speakers’ approach and evaluation of the topics has been evolving and expanding. In addition, it’s rewarding to see how my own understanding of the themes has developed from when I first joined, and how some of the concepts I initially couldn’t get my head around by now seem quite familiar. Continue reading

Cool for School: A Grossetestian framework for teaching scientific knowledge and how science works

IMG_1932Nowadays teachers are expected to have clearly defined learning objectives for every lesson, but more fundamentally it must be definedwhat the overall aims of education should be. These seem to cluter around the acquisition of firstly a broad and in-depth knowledge base across the disciplines, and secondly of procedural skills that enable students to critically evaluate information and to identify gaps in arguments and evidence. Having laid out learning objectives along these lines, we should take a step back and compare the current educational strategies against these standards. Continue reading

Workshop 2: Medieval Science and the Modern Curriculum – Part 1

At the beginning of this week we welcomed members old and new to Durham to explore the second element within OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAour network project based on Grosseteste’s scientific works, namely whether and how the ideas, concepts and problems he discusses can be used in the modern classroom. How to bring Grosseteste’s world to life and how to engage children and young adults with the challenges of crossing time and culture boundaries, are key to this process. Continue reading

Why the scientists?

Bridging humanities and sciences
Bridging humanities and sciences

At the heart of the Ordered Universe Project is the interdisciplinary collaboration between medievalists and scientists. In this way light is shed onto Grosseteste’s scientific work from very different angles, and this allows for an all-around and in-depth elucidation of his writings. That medievalists contribute to our understanding of medieval science seems straightforward and not a subject of debate. However, doubts are more likely to be raised about whether modern scientists can add anything useful at all in this endeavour.  Like many others who first hear about the Ordered Universe Project I was having these very doubts before joining the group during the FIDEM congress. Continue reading

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!

Ordered Universe Sessions at Porto

Cafe Majestic in Porto
Cafe Majestic in Porto

These are the details of the three formal sessions we have organised for the FIDEM Congress in Porto: focusing on the treatises on light and on colour. Each session has a mingling (to use a Grossetestian phrase) of scientific and humanities based scholars; all of which are needed to convey the richness and depth of these wonderful, and original expositions of Aristotle together with his Arabic commentators. The De luce we date to about 1225, the De iride is one of the last scientific texts Grosseteste composed, dated to 1228-1230.

Continue reading

Just published – Hot off the press….

Robert Grosseteste, The Dimensions of Colour: Robert Grosseteste’s De colore
Edition, Translation and Interdisciplinary Analysis
By Greti Dinkova-Bruun, Giles E.M. Gasper, Michael Huxtable, Tom C.B. McLeish, Cecilia Panti and Hannah Smithson

Those of you in North America can order your copy directly from PIMS, Europeans from the Brepols website (in a few days time), or from

The Medieval Big Bang and the Sky at Night

The Ordered Universe/Durham Grosseteste project work on the treatise on light is this month featured in the BBC Magazine, Sky at Night, dedicated to all things astronomical, in an article written by Paul Cockburn. Gasper, Panti, McLeish and Bower were all interviewed and feature in the discussion of Grosseteste’s expanding universe in his radical, anomalous, revolutionary?, exposition of Aristotle and the question of the extension of body. Get your copy now! We are featured on pages 69-73, including a lovely commentary on the project by Richard Bower, on the beauty of the treatise and the alternative rationality of this medieval view of the universe.

The Medieval Big Bang will feature at the FIDEM congress in Porto, and will be the main focus of the project’s publication programme this calendar year.