Ordered Universe: The Medieval Cosmos

The Medieval Cosmos is the first public version of a a complete visualisation of the themes and subjects explored by Grosseteste in his scientific works. It will take shape in 2D and 3D versions, to take the viewer on a guided tour of the birth and creation of the medieval universe, meteorological phenomena from the rainbow to climactic conditions, the nature of the elements, the relation between the heavens and the earth, comets, the notion of place and geometrical phenomena. Grosseteste’s powerful ability to conjure examples for the complex subjects he sought to explain, is the inspiration for the visualisation. His examples, are, consistently, explained precisely and succinctly, allowing us, even at 800 years difference, to follow his thought processes, and, with our own interpretative toolkits, to draw out a representation of the concepts and phenomena about which he was so fascinated. Later in life, he makes frequent use of scientific analogies or examples in his articulation of moral values within his sermons; they offer a pool of images and explanations on which he draws regularly in offering thoughts on human life and its relation to the rest of creation, and the Christian life seen in these contexts. These images remain as striking today as they were in the 1230s and 1240s, based on the work he had carried out between 1200-1228, and their capacity to communicate complex ideas is a further inspiration for modern scholarship.

The visualisation is part of the Ordered Universe collaboration, and is led by Professor Nick Holliman at the University of York. Early work on the rendering of the spheres was carried out by Adam Harries in Durham with a summer studentship from the Institute of Advanced Research Computing. The script was written by Giles and the team, the principal voiceover, very kindly supplied by Sir Thomas Allen, Chancellor of Durham University (as well as his day job as one of the world’s leading operatic singers!). We would appreciate any feedback and views on the visualisation. We will be taking it forward as the rest of the project provides more and more of Grosseteste’s scientific thinking with which to engage; we hope too to include interactive elements to the presentation.

For a 3D visualisation of the modern universe for comparison, we present here the prize-winning  Cosmic Origins, made by Nick Holliman in collaboration with Richard Bower, with voiceover from Bill Bryson, Sir Thomas’s predecessor as Chancellor of Durham University.

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