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

Events coming up

  • The interaction of fire and mankind 14 September 2015 at The Royal Society, London Scientific discussion meeting organised by Professor Andrew Scott, Professor William Chaloner FRS, Professor Claire Belcher and Dr Chris Roos
  • The interaction of fire and mankind - further discussion 16 September 2015 at The Royal Society at Chicheley Hall, home of the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, Buckinghamshire Scientific discussion meeting organised by Professor Andrew Scott, Professor William Chaloner FRS, Dr Claire Belcher and Professor Chris Roos
  • Open House Weekend 2015 19 September 2015 at The Royal Society, London The Royal Society's building will be open to the public on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September 2015.

For more events please see the events diary.

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