Beyond the Horizon

As we come to the end of the OxNet Access Summer School the students on Ordered Universe strand have been working very hard across the week with the three treatises by Grosseteste that we read through collaboratively. On the Impressions of the ElementsOn the Six Differentiae, and On the Rainbow find Grosseteste at his most intriguing, and in some sense difficult. Approaching these texts is a complex exercise; the complexity itself is a significant part of why the Ordered Universe methodology works through bringing lots of disciplinary perspectives together. The historical context has to be borne in mind – who was Grosseteste, where was he, who was he writing for; the source-base for which he was working and his access to particular works – when, for example, did he encounter Ibn Rushd/Averroes? when did he extended journey through Aristotle’s natural philosophy begin?; what are the phenomena he studies, and why?. How Grosseteste made his investigations took place is another area with a whole series of questions implied, what, for instance did optics mean for Grosseteste? why is astrology in his period sometimes approved of, sometimes condemned?, why does his universe have the shape and structure that he does? And to that we can add both the nature and understanding of the phenomena that he studies – what is a rainbow? colour? sound? a comet?

And the Access students, very much as part of the project, have taken a collaborative approach, and offered their own interpretations, analyses, and insights – some of which were entirely new to the team members teaching this week. As an example of what university research can be (amongst its may and varied and exciting forms) the project is well suited to capture the imagination. What has been so much more encouraging is the way that the students have responded – taking the past on its own terms, seeking out its different values, but at the same time using all of their prior experience, and skills, asking different questions, and trying to answer them, to see the research exercise as a whole. It is an enriching environment, and one that we hope will inspire future directions and choices – and horizon broadening!

OxNet Access Summer School 2019

August 4th-9th 2019 sees the annual OxNet Access Summer School take place at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. Under the theme Horizons,  the scheme brings together all of the hub schools within the OxNet scheme, from London, the North-West, and the North-East, and the varied networks that they represent. These include the four strands that make up the summer school: the North-West Science Network, the Continue reading

OxNet on Grosseteste Day

Happy Grosseteste Day! The 9th October marks the anniversary of Grosseteste’s death, attended, as the chronicler Matthew Paris noted, with the miraculous sounds of bells in the night sky. As part of the Ordered Universe’s commitment to university access we led, for the second year, a strand based around the project for the OxNet Access Scheme. For us, this is based around the North-East, with a hub school at Southmoor, and involved a series of seminars from team members, an Easter school at Durham, and the summer school in Oxford. Here’s what some of the students on the course thought:

Ordered Universe Creative News 1: Colour Columns I, II, and III on tour

Some news to share on further developments in the creative arts projects connected to the Ordered Universe. This, the first news-post of three, features Cate Watkinson’s Colour Columns exhibited as part of the Illuminating Colour exhibition (2017-18) at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. Smaller versions were exhibited at the Light Embodied exhibition at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. Now three of the four original columns are now installed in the Cheesburn Grange sculpture garden, near Ponteland, to the north-west of Newcastle.

Cheeseburn Grange, originally a grange farm of Hexham Abbey, now owned by the Riddell family, gives support to creative projects and exhibits sculpture in the gardens. These are open to public on selected weekends, and by appointment. Colour Columns will be in place for the year, and Cate will be measuring the effect of the light embodied by the columns over the course of the year. If you’re in the North-East, check out the website for the best times to visit: it will be worth it.

Cheeseburn_Grange_-_geograph.org.uk_-_111000.jpg
Alan Fearon / Cheeseburn Grange / CC BY-SA 2.0

What Robert Grosseteste states in his treatise On Colour, at its conclusion recalls the skill of the artist in knowing the material, knowing the effect of light, and knowing how to manipulate both. Colour Columns at Cheeseburn will repay a visit, most certainly

What is understood in this way about the essence of colours and their multiplication, becomes apparent not only by reason but also by experience to those who thoroughly understand the depth of the principles of natural science and optics. And this is because they know how to make the diaphanous medium either pure or impure, so that in it they can receive bright light, or dim if they prefer, and through the shape formed in the diaphanous medium itself they can make scarce light, or increase that same light at will; and so through skilful manipulation they can show visibly, as they wish, all kinds of colour.

Grosseteste, De colore, ed. and trans, Dinkova-Bruun et al. (2013)

 

 

Keeping us all in suspense…

A wonderful feature of the Ordered Universe conference (Pembroke College, Oxford, April 3-6), was the installation by Alexandra Carr, in the Damon Wells Chapel in the college. The mysterious and beautiful structure intrigued and delighted the conference delegates, but kept us all in suspense with respect to its name.   Continue reading

Science, Imagination, and Wonder: Impressions and Experiences

One of the main challenges for all who study the highly variegated output produced by Robert Grosseteste over the course of his lifetime is how, if at all, his works within highly disparate disciplines may be harmonized into a coherent whole. This challenge was embodied in practice from April 3rd through 6th, when scholars from a wide range of disciplines descended on Pembroke College, Oxford, for the conference ‘Science, Imagination, and Wonder: Robert Grosseteste and his Legacy’. In order to make this an occasion for mutually fruitful exchange across – rather than merely within – the boundaries segmenting academia, Continue reading

Conference news: Jim Al-Khalili

 

With a day to go before the Ordered Universe conference on Science, Imagination and Wonder, we’re very much looking forward to the public lecture to be given by Professor Jim Al-Khalili, On the Shoulders of Giants: Optics before Newton, in the Weston Library, from 17.15 on Continue reading

Conference Previews: Science, Imagination and…

Preparations for the Ordered Universe conference which takes place at Pembroke College, Oxford 3-6 April, are moving on apace. In addition to our three keynote speakers, Professors Jim Al-Khalili (Surrey), Suzanne Akbari (Toronto) and Simon Oliver (Durham), we have a nice array of papers submitted, from a fantastic range of disciplines, which are forming themselves into panels. Just as a taster, we have for example:

  • Philipp Nothaft (All Souls College, Oxford) on ‘Grosseteste as Computist’
  • Brett Smith (Catholic University of America) on ‘When Aristotle Went Wrong: How Desire Shapes Intellectual Vision in the Epistemology of Robert Grosseteste’
  • Adam Richter (Toronto) on ‘Robert Grosseteste, John Wallis and the Laws of Nature’
  • Aimee Quickfall (Bishop Grosseteste University) on ‘Philosophy with Children and Robert Grosseteste’

and plenty of other papers from the team and friends old and new.

The conference will also feature an exhibition of work from staff and students at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, conceived and created in response to Grosseteste’s thought especially on colour and the rainbow. The exhibition, curated by Clara Chivers, will also include manuscript treasures from Pembroke College library, including works of Grosseteste. Multi-media sculptor Alexandra Carr will be bringing together a temporary installation in the college chapel, drawing inspiration from Grosseteste’s cosmological vision, and modern understanding of the universe.

We’re very keen to have as many people at the conference as possible, and there are places left for paper or poster submissions – the conference rates and information, including timetable, are available here. Spread the word!

Space, Place and Elements: Ordered Universe Symposium

Tomorrow sees the fifth Ordered Universe symposium in the current series, as funded by the AHRC (and the twentieth in the all-time rankings) get underway. We’ll be focusing on three texts, all from the mid-years of Grosseteste’s scientific writing career: On the Six DifferencesOn Comets and On the Impressions of the Elements. All are beautiful, intricate and more complex than they look at first reading, and reveal Grosseteste marshalling more sources, working with greater familiarity with Aristotelian natural philosophy and his Arabic-language commentators. Dating from the second decade of the thirteenth century to the first half of the third, Grosseteste’s location at the time of composition is as uncertain, as the political and social turbulence of these years is assured. For what purpose and for whom the treatises were composed remains unclear, whether for teaching or for private reflection. The texts themselves however, are as precise and dauntingly specific as ever.

We are very happy indeed to be back in the elegant surroundings of Pembroke College, Oxford University, and huge thanks to Rebekah White, Clive Siviour, Josh Harvey and Nuala Darnell for organisation. Sarah Gilbert, the Ordered Universe administrator has been the lynchpin in this capacity as well. The programme is available here as PDF and in on Issuu below. Future symposia will be taking place in Montreal (McGill University), Dublin (Trinity College), Lincoln (Bishop Grosseteste University) and Durham, with workshops in between at the University of York. The collaborative reading remains the centre-piece of Ordered Universe activities: a nice reminder of how complex Grosseteste’s ideas were, how hard the process of elucidation is, and the meeting of minds, present and past. We’ll let you know the results and what we’re up to this year!

New Year? New Symposium!

 

The Ordered Universe team are throwing themselves into 2018 with another symposium that will focus on preparing our collaborative editions and translations of the shorter scientific works of Robert Grosseteste.

The symposium will be held Jan 7th–10th 2018 at Pembroke College, Oxford, and this time around the team will be reading Robert Grosseteste’s De cometis, De sex differentiis and De impressionibus elementorum.

Continue reading