Lesson 3: The High Middle Ages

1. The founding of the universities. Adelard of Badi and the distinction between the action of the Creator and the natural wonders of His creation. Robert Grosseteste, the founder of experimental science, refined the two essential bases of science, logical coherence and experimental verification, by insisting on the use of mathematics and precise measurements. Application to light.

2. Technology in the Middle Ages. The monasteries as centres of technological innovation in building, farming, cloth-making, metallurgy and book-making. There were windmills and watermills, and increasingly sophisticated clocks to regulate the hours of work and prayer. International trade flourished, with international banking and a reliable monetary system.

3. The Origin of science. The teaching of Aristotelian philosophy in the universities. Discussions on creation and the motion of bodies. The condemnation of 1277 by Tempier. Buridan and the problem of motion. The concept of impetus and the break with Aristotelian physics. Belief in the order of nature. Duhem's work on the origin of science. Science in Eastern Christendom.

4. The rise of Islam. The insistence on the freedom of Allah relative to His rationality. Internal and external criteria for the development of science.

Reading List

M. Clagett, The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages. Madison, 1959.

A.C. Crombie, Augustine to Galileo, The History of Science 400-1650. Falcon, 1952.

A.C. Crombie, Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science 1100-1700. Oxford, 1953.

C. Dawson, Progress and Religion. Sheed and Ward, 1929.

C. Dawson, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture. Sheed and Ward, 1950.

E. Gilson, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy. Sheed and Ward, 1936.

E. Gilson, The History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages. Sheed and Ward, 1954.

J. Gimpel, The Medieval Machine. Pimlico, 1992.

E. Grant, Physical Science in the Middle Ages. Cambridge, 1977.

E. Grant, Planets, Stars and Orbs: The Medieval Cosmos 1200-1687. Cambridge, 1994.

F. Heer, The Medieval World. Wiedenfeld and Nicholson, 1961 (Ch. 12).

T. E. Huff, The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West. Cambridge, 1993.

S.L. Jaki, Science and Creation. Scottish Academic Press, 1986.

S.L. Jaki, Uneasy Genius: The Life and Work of Pierre Duhem. Martinus Nijhoff, 1984.

S.L. Jaki, The Physics of Impetus and the Impetus of the Koran. Science and Censorship: Helene Duhem and the Publication of the Systeme du Monde. Chapters 9 and 11 in The Absolute Beneath the Relative. University Press of America, 1988.

S.L. Jaki, Reluctant Heroine: the Life and Work of Helene Duhem. Scottish Acad. Press, 1992.

S.L. Jaki, "Medieval Christianity: Its Inventiveness in Technology and Science". Article in Technology in the Western Political Tradition. Ed. M.R. Zinman. Cornell U. Press, 1993.

D.C. Lindberg (Ed), Science in the Middle Ages. Chicago, 1978.

J.A. Weisheipl, The Development of Physical Theory in the Middle Ages. Sheed & Ward, 1959.

A.N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World. Cambridge, 1926.


1. Discuss the importance of the founding of the medieval universities for the development of science.

2. Give an account of the work of Grosseteste on the basis of experimental science.

3. What were the main contributions of the monasteries to medieval civilisation?

4. How important was time in the Middle Ages?

5. Describe the Aristotelian and medieval theories of local motion.

6. How did the Christian doctrine of creation influence the theories of motion?

7. Describe the gradual breakdown of Aristotelian physics.

8. Why did science not develop in Eastern Christendom?

9. What was the reason for Tempier's condemnations of 1277, and how did they influence subsequent history?

10. What was Duhem's contribution to our knowledge of the origin of science?

11. What was the contribution of Islam to the development of science, and why did science fail to develop in Islamic culture?


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