Tor Vergata News – Time and Time Reckoning

From the Ordered Universe’s last symposium in Rome, April 2016, a short news report from Tor Vergata on the conference we held there. This was the first activity in a collaboration between Durham and Tor Vergata as well as being an occasions to hear four excellent papers on the subject of time. With our next symposium coming up in Durham at the end of the month this is a timely reminder of the range of our activities! Continue reading

Time and Time Reckoning: Ordered Universe at Tor Vergata

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!


The Appliance of Science: Ordered Universe in Rome

The Ordered Universe project enjoyed an excellent collaborative reading symposium in Rome at the beginning of this month, 4-8 April. Some 26 of the group gathered in the eternal city, under the local care of Cecilia Panti and her colleagues from Università di Rome, ‘Tor Vergata’, especially Clelia Crialesi. The symposium took place in the University of Notre Dame, Rome Global Gateway. We made full use of its excellent facilities, and were treated to a very hospitable welcome from the director, Professor Ted Cachey and events administrator Krista de Eleuterio. Continue reading

O Roma nobilis

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

Wonders of the Universe

Rome Public Lecture Poster 3

‘Wonders of the Universe’ is a public lecture from the Ordered Universe Research Project, an interdisciplinary encounter between medieval and modern science: 7th April, 2016, 18.00 in Rome, at the University of Notre Dame Rome Global Gateway (Via Ostilia, 15). The lecture is given in two parts, each of 30 minutes, by Dr Cecilia Panti, an expert on medieval philosophy, and Professor Tom McLeish FRS, an expert on physics, rheology and a keen astronomer. Between the two of them they will explore the intricacies and delights of medieval and modern thought on astronomy and planetary systems.

Cecilia will introduce one of the most famous texts on astronomy inherited by the medieval west from the ancient world, and its medieval Arabic commentators, and the fascinating story of its complex reception:

‘The Almagest of the ancient Alexandrian Ptolemy was by the end of the 12th century known to the Latin world, as was its large corpus of explanatory treatises. Robert Grosseteste was one of the first western scholars to study the Almagest, an encounter which seems to have left him more questions than answers. In his cosmological writings Grosseteste did not engage with the quantitive aspects of the Almagest, and, although appearing to reject the complexities of Ptolemy’s mathematical approach to astronomy, used other models which were even more obscure. Only with the emergence of new techniques in practical astronomy, championed by Campanus of Nova and William of Wallingford was it possible to verify and understand the approach of the Almagest, almost a century after it first appeared on the conceptual horizon of western scholars.’

Changes in practical astronomy and observation altered, radically, understanding of past texts, and the heavens. Tom takes this story on to explore the marvellous diversity of planetary bodies within the solar system:

‘Just over 400 years ago, in 1609 or 1610, Galileo identified the four largest satellites of Jupiter as true moons of the giant planet.  Since then, both earth and space-based exploration of the solar system have revealed dozens of rocky worlds in orbit around the planets.  These are the true occupiers of the imagined ‘epicycles’ of old rather than the planets themselves.  One of the greatest surprises to emerge in this great epoch of exploration is that  no two are alike.  We will survey briefly ice-moons, clouded moons, volcanic moons, two-faced moons and more, in a tour of the solar system’s rich family of worlds’.

All are welcome to join us for this journey into space and time. The University of Notre Dame du Lac Rome Global Gateway, Via Ostilia 15, is found here:

The lectures will be followed by a wine reception. Entrance is free but places are limited and must be registered by email to:

Ordered Universe Symposium: The Appliance of Science: Astronomy and the Calendar

The next in the Ordered Universe Symposium series takes place in April, 5th-8th, in Rome. Co-sponsored by the Università di Roma Tor Vergata, and hosted in the University of Notre Dame du Lac, Rome Global Gateway, the symposium will focus on Grussetestes’s treatise De spheraOn the Sphere and his treatise on time-reckoning and the calendar the Compotus correctorius. The programme is embedded below, and includes details of a half-day conference at Tor Vergata, on Wednesday 6th April (with papers by Richard Bower, Anne Lawrence Mathers, Philipp Nothaft and Neil Lewis) and the Symposium Public Lecture to be delivered on Thursday 7th April at the Notre Dame Global Gateway (Via Ostilia 15) at 18.00 by Tom McLeish and Cecilia Panti. Any inquires should be directed to The symposium will include regular Ordered Universe participants and some for whom this is their first time: we look forward to three days of interdisciplinary engagement and exploration. Time, space, stars, planets, zodiac and the relationship of the earth to the cosmos, of humanity to creation, are some amongst the topics and questions which Grosseteste opens and to which he addresses his treatises.

Images courtesy of wiki commons and Giles Gasper.