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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Event Archive

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

7th March 2014, 13:00, The Royal Society, London, Professor Tom McLeish FRS, Dr Giles Gasper and Dr Hannah Smithson

This event is free to attend and open to all. No tickets are required. Doors open at 12.30pm and seats will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

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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