The medieval science of light: uncovering meaning with an interdisciplinary methodology

Public history of science lecture by Professor Tom McLeish FRS, Dr Giles Gasper and Dr Hannah Smithson

Colour cube Colour cube by Hannah Smithson

Event details

Tom McLeish FRS is Professor of Physics and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at Durham University. Giles Gasper is Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at Durham University. Hannah Smithson is University Lecturer in Perception at Pembroke College, University of Oxford.

Can science today learn from thirteenth century literature? In the Durham Ordered Universe project, an interdisciplinary team (physicists, medievalists, Latin scholars and historians of science) has engaged with the great medieval English thinker Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253), and found an extraordinarily subtle mind at work.

Light moves Grosseteste throughout his works; it is a ubiquitous theme. In this lecture, three members of the Durham team present Grosseteste's treatise on colour, to reveal and explore the three-dimensional colour space through which he thinks. His later treatise on the rainbow revisits this theory of colour generation, but with surprising results from modern perspectives. By using medieval studies and modern colour science, the treatises can be interpreted in new, stimulating and more complete ways, part of an enduring sense of the richness of the encounter between medieval and modern science.

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The medieval science of light: uncovering meaning with an interdisciplinary methodology 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

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