A huge thank you to all who came to the launch for the first volume of The Scientific Works of Robert Grosseteste yesterday afternoon in Pembroke College, University of Oxford. It was wonderful to be hosted by the SCR, and in the company of the Master and Continue reading
A lovely moment for the Ordered Universe project. The first volume in our Oxford University Press series on The Scientific Works of Robert Grosseteste was published 11 days ago, on November 6th. In a resplendent red dust-jacket (the beginning of a rainbow as the other volumes appear), the volume presents Grosseteste’s treatises On the Liberal Arts and On the Generation of Sounds with an intriguing Middle English re-imagining of both texts The Seven Liberal Arts. Nineteen co-authors, from the wide range of disciplines that characterise the project contributed variously to the tasks of editing, translating, elucidating, and analysing the treatises, and Grosseteste’s remarkable thought processes.
So, we have discussion of the evolution of the liberal arts as a conceptual and educational schema, discussion of Grosseteste’s location and circumstances – from the southern Welsh borders to (possibly) Paris of the first decade of the thirteenth century. We have analysis of his interest in music, of his mastery of Aristotle’s natural philosophy – notably the traditions of interpretation around On the Soul and the Physics, and his familiarity with Islamiate authors such as Abu Ma’shar. And, we have analysis of the sonativum, the sounding object and its physical properties and behaviour, alongside discussion of human vocal production and perception of phonemes. These are integral to the interpretation of Grosseteste’s intentions in his first two treatises, and their re-working in Middle English. The volume moves from the ancient world to the end of the medieval period, and to our own; Islamicate thinkers, Christian authorities, Ancient authors, and contemporary scholars, are check by jowl with the natural phenomena discussed, and the moral framework that Grosseteste sets up for learning.
The two treatises show Grosseteste at the beginning of an enterprise that would occupy him for thirty years or so, exploring new learning from the Ancient World, and medieval Islamicate, dedicated to the understanding of natural philosophy. The later treatises focus on astronomy and geography, comets, meteorology, colour, light, the properties of matter, and the rainbow, amongst many other subjects. It is unusual to be able to follow the development of a past thinker from youth to old age; it is the case for the study of Grosseteste’s world. And this is a journey that we make in his company, and in his footsteps.
This then, is a special moment for the team and the project. We have brought together individual scholarship on Grosseteste into a creative dynamic focused on his scientific works. The project’s radically interdisciplinary ethos fuels its emphasis on learning without frontiers, from youth to experience, and from the university classroom to city-streets with projection art, galleries, schools, shopping centres, festivals, public talks in conference centres, cathedrals, societies, and pubs. There are so many people and institutions involved, and so many to thank for their generosity of funding, time, expertise, and insight. Now in its eleventh year, and fifth of major funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Ordered Universe has developed a distinctive modus operandi, and a distinctive reach into sciences, humanities, and wider communities of learning and interest. As Grosseteste might note scale is not the key here, but intensity: all contributions, no matter how seemingly small, are vital to the outworking of what we do. And this volume, in this sense, represents so much more than the nineteen authors; and proudly so.
This afternoon we are very fortunate to be able to hold a reception for the first official launch of Knowing and Speaking at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, a few hundred metres or so from where Grosseteste would have taught in the early 1230s at the house of the Franciscans, Greyfriars. We are extremely grateful to the college for facilitating this gathering, especially the Master Dame Lynne Brindley. There will be further book launches and discussion of the volume and its implications will take place in January 2020 at the University of York, and March 2020 at Durham University.
The Ordered Universe will be represented at the 2018 International Congress on Medieval Studies, the 53rd meeting, with two sessions on medieval thinking about, well, order. Continue reading
Fresh from the recent conference at Georgetown University, on the dynamic coupling of aspectus and affectus, the next Ordered Universe colloquium takes another theme close to Grosseteste’s heart: calendrical reform and its related subjects, time, astronomy, medicine, as well as the dating of Easter. The colloquium takes place next week on the 19th and 20th April, at All Souls College, University of Oxford. We will be taking a longer view of compotus in England, and the background to Grosseteste’s own characteristic contribution to the area, the Compotus correctorius. Principally the scholars gathering in Oxford will examine Durham Cathedral Manuscript Hunter 100, a computistical album from the early twelfth century. Investigating the antecedents, and the details of the compendium, allows different light to be shed onto the culture of medieval scientific investigation. Exploring both the texts and images, as well as the communities in and for which the manuscript was produced, the colloquium will provide an in-depth analysis. Other papers will broaden the scope, thinking about the implications of compotus texts from theological and societal perspectives, before ending with a full treatment and discussion of Grosseteste’s place in compotus studies, and the importance of the Compotus correctorius in his scientific canon. With experts including Faith Wallis, Eric Ramírez Weaver, Alfed Lohr and Philipp Nothaft, as well as Ordered Universe regulars, the programme looks exciting!
We are extremely grateful to All Souls College, and especially to Dr Philipp Nothaft for supporting the colloquium, financially and organisationally as to Durham University and Dr Rosalind Green in the same capacity.
I received an invitation last year to give a seminar that was impossible to turn down. Every Wednesday afternoon the Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science at Leeds University holds a proper academic seminar – 3.15 to 5pm, giving plenty of time to expound an idea as well as have it comprehensively discussed. I had to go – for it was in this setting, regularly taking time of from the Physics department during the years I was professor there, that I first learnt about Robert Grosseteste. Continue reading
During the most recent of the Ordered Universe Symposia, medieval specialists and modern scientists applied their minds to Robert Grosseteste’s De sphera (On the sphere). In this early treatise of his, Grosseteste describes the movements of the heavenly bodies in the firmament according to the observer’s position on earth. The astronomical knowledge available during the supposedly so dark Middle Ages is of impressive accuracy Continue reading
As part of the Ordered Universe symposium in Rome, Cecilia Panti organised a half-day conference on Time and Time Reckoning in Medieval and Contemporary Scientific Perspectives. The occasion also marked the first event in a new collaboration between the Dipartimento di Studi Letterari, Filosofici e di Storia dell’Arte at Tor Vergata and the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Department of History, at Durham. Alongside the Ordered Universe team were colleagues from Tor Vergata. We were able to record some of the proceedings, and have included them here.
The four speakers are all regular Ordered Universe participants, and began with Anne Lawrence Mathers from the University of Reading, on Spheres, Rays and Sublunary Airs. Medieval weather, its prediction, connections to what might be termed magic, and the equally strong connections to the scientific endeavours of Grosseteste were among the subjects Anne raised: all highly relevant to the earlier deliberations on climes and astronomical observation.
Neil Lewis followed, with a full and detailed account of Grosseteste’s theory of time, as expressed in the Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics. Moving through Augustine and Aristotle, the nuanced position that Grosseteste came to about the present, in particular, was fascinating to have unfolded before us.
After a short break the final two papers. Philipp Nothaft gave us an in-depth account of the vexed issues of precession and trepidation in astronomical terms. This was the key point at issue for Grosseteste between Ptolemy and Aristotle, to which the solution appeared to lie in Thebit. Philipp showed why these issues were so problematic in the 13th century in particular.
Our final paper took the issue of time to the modern universe, and our contemporary understanding of its origins and its future. Richard Bower opened up the latest research from his galaxy modelling project, and the work of the Durham Institute of Computational Cosmology. The models are so accurate they can hoodwink observational astronomers.
A very stimulating afternoon, which both supported the symposium readings, and introduced the research of colleagues to each other and to the staff and students at Tor Vergata. More news on the Durham-Tor Vergata activities soon, but a great event to being with!
O Roma nobilis orbis et domina (O noble Rome, mistress of the world), as the anonymous poet from Verona in the late ninth or early tenth century put it. The next Ordered Universe symposium starts today, in the eternal city, bi-located at the University of Notre Dame du Lac, Rome Global Gateway and Università di Roma, Tor Vergata. Continue reading