Robert Grosseteste, 1168-1253, England, pioneer of faith and science

Hey Max,

Got another one for you. Robert Grosseteste. A bit gross (boom boom, sorry). A Christian this time, also a founder of modern science. He is one of a series of leading people of science across history who were also people of faith. Look him up on Wikipedia and other stuff, I did.

Robert Grosseteste 1168-1253, England

was an English statesman, scholastic philosopher, theologian, scientist and Bishop of Lincoln. He was born of humble parents at Stradbroke in Suffolk. A.C. Crombie calls him "the real founder of the tradition of scientific thought in medieval Oxford, and in some ways, of the modern English intellectual tradition".

Grosseteste wrote in Latin and French on the creation of the world and Christian redemption, as well as texts on household management and courtly etiquette. He also wrote theological works including the influential Hexaëmeron in the 1230s. He was also a highly regarded author of manuals on pastoral care in churches and monstaries. However, Grosseteste is best known as an original thinker for his work concerning what would today be called science or the scientific method.

From about 1220 to 1235 he wrote a host of scientific treatises including:

  • De sphera. An introductory text on astronomy.
  • De luce. On the "metaphysics of light." (which is the most original work of cosmogony in the Latin West)
  • De accessu et recessu maris. On tides and tidal movements. (although some scholars dispute his authorship)
  • De lineis, angulis et figuris. Mathematical reasoning in the natural sciences.
  • De iride. On the rainbow.

· He also wrote a number of commentaries on Aristotle, including the first in the West of Posterior Analytics, and one on Aristotle’s Physics, which has survived as a loose collection of notes or glosses on the text.

Grossesteste is now believed to have had a very modern understanding of colour, and supposed errors in his account have been found to be based on corrupt late copies of his essay on the nature of colour, written in about 1225. The ‘Ordered Universe’ collaboration of scientists and historians at Durham University studying medieval science regard him as a key figure in showing that pre-Renaissance science was far more advanced than previously thought.[9]


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