Page 1

The ordered universe Project Symposia series 2015-2019 Sight Rays, Light Rays and Bubbles: Robert Grosseteste’s De lineis, De impressionibus elementorum, De natura locorum, De colore, De iride 16–18 September 2019 Pembroke College, Oxford University United Kingdom

Welcome This is the ninth of the Ordered Universe symposia under the aegis of the Arts and Humanities Research Council award which provides funding for the project until the end of 2019. It is also the 24th Ordered Universe symposium in a sequence stretching back to July 2010. This symposium takes place at Pembroke College, one of the constituent colleges of Oxford University, UK and marks the fourth time that we have held a symposium in the place where Grosseteste himself taught for a number of years. The interdisciplinary ethos of the Ordered Universe has developed into an iterative methodology of reading, listening, discussing and writing together. The core of our activities is a collaborative reading process that, although constantly evolving, remains simple. Collaborative reading means that every question is important and every point of view equal (they should also at some point make their way to the chair of the session!). The aim of the project is to work through Grosseteste’s shorter scientific treatises (opuscula) and present them in new editions, translations and multi-disciplinary perspectives. These are the De artibus liberalibus, De generatione sonoroum, De sphera, De impressionibus elementorum, De cometis, De luce, De motu supercelestium, De motu corporali et luce, De differentiis localibus, De lineis, De natura locorum, De iride (and the De colore). All will be published by Oxford University Press and the first volume, containing the De artibus liberalibus and the De generatione sonorum is available for pre-order, with publication taking place on November 6, 2019. The second half of 2018–19 academic year was typically busy for the project. Joshua Harvey, Giles Gasper, Tom Henderson, and Claire Ungley ran the Ordered Universe strand for the OxNet Access Summer School, under Peter Claus’s direction. The Leeds International Medieval Congress saw a full day dedicated to the project and its results, with four sessions, and a round-table. Light, Sight, Meteorology, and Sound formed the basis of the sessions with papers from Brian Tanner, Philipp Nothaft, Anne Lawrence-Mathers, Hannah Smithson, Giles Gasper, Tom McLeish, Francesca Galli, Nicola Polloni, Joshua Harvey, and Sigbjørn Sønnesyn. The round-table, chaired by Tom, featured a discussion on interdisciplinary lessons from Ordered Universe, with Giles and Brian joined by Clive Siviour, Cate Watkinson, Laura Cleaver, art history, creative arts, engineering, physics, and medieval history, all in the melting pot together. Other conference appearances from team members include Tom at the Royal College of Art on Colour and the Rainbow, and Sigbjørn and Giles at the inaugural Residential Research Library Conference at Durham University on Grosseteste’s use of Aristotle, and the context of his teaching career in the 1220s. Publications-wise it is very good to report the publication of ‘A thirteenth-century theory of speech’ published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 146 (2019) DOI: 10.1121/1.5119126, which was led in efficient and admirable fashion by Joshua. The project also featured in a short piece for the Durham History Alumni Magazine, Symeon. A major publication has been a volume of essays on Grosseteste and Education, masterminded by Jack Cunningham and Steven Puttick, featuring a number of project members. We are in the final stages of production for our first volume of Grosseteste’s scientific works with OUP, and held a successful writing workshop at the University of York, bringing together current progress on the second volume.

What we are embarked upon this time The symposium will focus on five treatises: On Lines, On the Nature of Places, On the Impressions of the Elements, On Colour, and On the Rainbow. None of the treatises are easy to date, but they probably emerge during the 1220s, from the early, middle, and later years. This symposium is the occasion at which our process of editing, translating, and reading collaboratively, comes to it completion. With the new work on De iride and De colore we will have read through all of Grosseteste’s shorter scientific works. The five texts that are to be read deal with widely divergent themes, but despite their surface differences they emerge from a coherent programme directed at understanding nature and natural phenomena by way of their causes. The texts rely on a unified set of principles for their intelligibility; this set is not made explicit in these texts, but they are elaborated in Grosseteste’s metaphysics of light in On Light and On Bodily Movement and On Light. Their relative dating is uncertain, but they seem to belong to the 1220s, probably towards the end of the decade. Grosseteste sought to find in light a common causal and formal factor of all natural bodies, and of all natural processes. Light naturally extends itself in all directions in straight lines, and each natural kind of thing exist by virtue of a nature in which light participates. This not only accounts for how natural bodies move, which is treated in other texts, but also for how they causally interact with one another and with human perception, which is the theme running through the treatises presently at hand. All texts arguably employ the same method, which is made explicit in On the Rainbow. Here, Grosseteste invokes Aristotle’s distinction in the Posterior Analytics I.13 between demonstrations issuing in a statement of fact and demonstrations issuing in a causal explanation. The first tells us only that something is the case; the second explains why something is the case. Grosseteste explains that he is after the second kind of explanation, one that proceeds from known or generally assumed causes to explaining the reason why observable phenomena happen the way they do. This may explain the initially puzzling method of the short treatise On Colour, which only tangentially concerned with specific colours as visual phenomena. Colour, Grosseteste states, is light embodied in a transparent medium, and while parameters of the qualities of the light and the medium in question explain variations between colours, the notion linking of the visual appearance of things to properties of light allows Grosseteste to explain not only why we see different colours but also why and how all bodies produce visible likenesses of themselves on the senses of observers. Since colour participates in light, it also participates in the behaviour of light and the causal explanations of light, where light exerts its causal powers according to geometrical principles. This is made explicit in the treatises On Lines and On the Nature of Places, which should be counted as one single treatise with two distinct parts.

Monday 16 September SCR Parlour, Pembroke College 14.00–14.30 Coffee/Tea 14.30–14.45 Welcomes 14.45–15.45 Session 1

Collaborative Reading of De Lineis: Part I

15.45–16.00 Break 16.00–17.00 Session 2

Collaborative Reading of De Lineis: Part II

17.00–17.10 Break 17.10–18.10 Session 3

Collaborative Reading elementorum

18.10–18.50 Excursus

Two Projects on Grosseteste: Sophie Abrahams and Joseph Hurd






Forte Room, Pembroke College

Participants: 19 (18): Gasper, Sønnesyn, Tanner, Thomson, Campi, Lewis, Panti, Hurd, Abrahams, Falk, Ford, Gilbert, Cunningham, McLeish, Smithson, Siviour, Harvey, White, Nothaft

Tuesday 17 September Scr Parlour, Pembroke College 9.00–9.30



Session 4




Session 5




Session 6


Break with Coffee and Tea


Session 7




Session 8


Collaborative Reading of De Lineis: Part III

Collaborative Reading of De colore

Collaborative Reading of De natura locorum: Part I

Collaborative Reading of De natura locorum: Part II

Collaborative Reading of De natura locorum: Part III

Dinner: Mi Sichuan, Gloucester Green

Participants: 18 (17): Gasper, Sønnesyn, Tanner, Thomson, Campi, Lewis, Panti, Hurd, Abrahams, Falk, Ford, Gilbert, Cunningham, McLeish, Smithson, Siviour, Harvey, White, Monid

Wednesday 18 September SCR Parlour, Pembroke College 9.00–9.30



Session 9




Session 10


Lunch and Depart

Collaborative Reading of De iride: Part I Collaborative Reading of De iride: Part II

Participants: 18 (17): Gasper, Sønnesyn, Tanner, Thomson, Campi, Lewis, Panti, Hurd, Abrahams, Falk, Ford, Gilbert, Cunningham, McLeish, Smithson, Siviour, Harvey, White


Pembroke College within the City of Oxford

THINKING TOWARDS VOLUME TWO Collaborative reading is one thing; co-writing is quite another. One of the most striking things about ordered universe research methods and practices is the extent to which we co-author, and co-write, sharing our ideas for content, structure, and analysis. Writing together is perhaps more natural for those team members from a scientific background, that is increasingly common within arts and humanities research as well. Now, we have written, as a team, in various combination a significant number of science papers drawing on, inspired by, and more straightforwardly analysing Grosseteste’s thinking on natural phenomena. We have also written articles together for social science and humanities publication outlets. A joint analysis of On the Liberal Arts, On the Generation of Sounds, and the Middle English, The Seven Liberal Arts was a taller order. Volume 1 of our series, coming to all high-street and online book sellers on November 6th of this year, will clock in at over 650 pages. Ensuring the coherence of the volume while allowing for the beautiful diversity of interpretation was no mean feat, and a testament to the patience, scholarly integrity, and collaborative ethos of all participating authors. It is a process the results of which are a sum much greater than the parts. We have embarked already on our second volume and enjoyed a two-day session of planning and sharing drafts at the University of York in late July. The volume will be dedicated to Grosseteste’s treatise On the Sphere, using Cecilia Panti’s edition, a translation by Sigbørn, and commentary chapters that explore the historical context, what we can surmise about Grosseteste’s whereabouts in the second decade of the thirteenth century, the ideas that he explores within the text, the place of the treatise within Grosseteste’s canon, and scientific comparisons and observations prompted by the treatise. Unusually for the shorter scientific works the treatise has a tradition of illustration, and this is under consideration alongside the computer visualisation of the treatise which will be hosted on the Oxford University Press website. So, much to look forward too, much to be getting on with, and our attention will then turn to the next volume in the series!

Grosseteste and Education As part of the Ordered Universe’s on-going commitment to school’s outreach and access to university team members led a strand in the OxNet Access Summer School which took place at Pembroke College in August 2019. School pupils from the North-East Hub based at Southmoor Academy, Sunderland (including Park View Academy, St Anthony’s, and St Robert of Newminster) joined other hub schools from the North-West of England, and London. Within the Ordered Universe strand we thought about the structures of medieval learning and the emergence of universities, and read collaboratively the treatises On the Impressions of the Elements, On the Six Differentiae, and On the Rainbow. The students then split into working groups to make poster presentations on the three treatises, researching on their own, and with the support of Ordered Universe members Joshua, Giles, and Tom Henderson. A full range of additional activities took place as well, a concert, talks on university admissions, tutorials, lectures, and a formal dinner. Just a week in university life – with a bit of Grosseteste’s science thrown in!

On a similar theme, the project is delighted to announce another new publication. This time a collection of essays put together by Jack Cunningham and Steve Puttick from the Ordered Human project, a scion project from Ordered Universe. The essays include a number by Ordered Universe members, Jack himself, Giles Gasper, writing with Peter Claus, and with Michael Gasper, Brian Tanner, writing with Robert Tanner, Tom McLeish, Roz Gammie, Adam Hounslow-Eyre. Another mutlidisciplinary grouping, the volume is built around discussions by modern educationalists, modern scientists, and medieval specialists. Grosseteste’s views on education, and the resonances between medieval and modern questions in this area, form the basis for the volume. Published by Routledge, Robert Grosseteste and Theories of Education will be available before Christmas.

Attendees and Disciplines 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) 11) 12) 13) 14) 15) 16) 17) 18) 19)

Giles Gasper (Durham University) Tom McLeish (University of York) Hannah Smithson (University of Oxford) Neil Lewis (Georgetown University) Cecilia Panti (Università di Roma, Tor Vergata) Clive Siviour (University of Oxford) Brian Tanner (Durham University) Sigbjørn Sønnesyn (Durham University) Rebekah White (University of Oxford) Luigi Campi (Università degli Studi di Milano) Jack Cunningham (Bishop Grosseteste University) Seb Falk (University of Cambridge) Philipp Nothaft (University of Oxford) David Thomson (Durham University) Sarah Gilbert (Durham University) Joshua Harvey (University of Oxford) Jack Ford (University College London) Sophie Abrahams (University of York Joseph Hurd (University of York)

History Physics Psychology / Vision Science Philosophy Philosophy Engineering Physics History Psychology Philosophy History History and Philosophy of Science History / Theology Middle English History / Palaeography Engineering / Psychology History Physics History and Philosophy of Science


The organisation for this symposium in the Ordered Universe series has been borne by Hannah Smithson, Clive Siviour, Rebekah White and Alex Cox of Pembroke College, Oxford, Giles Gasper and Sarah Gilbert. The Ordered Universe would like to extend its thanks to Pembroke College and all of the support staff who have worked hard to put this event together. The symposium is the ninth to take place as part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council major grant: we are delighted to be supported in this way by the council, and by its Science in Culture theme.

Image: London, British Library, Harley MS 4350, f. 4r. Description: Diagram from a copy of Grosseteste’s De sphaera copied s. xiii2/2. Copyright: Image is the property of the British Library and is made available under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

Profile for Ordered Universe

Ordered Universe Symposium, Pembroke College, University of Oxford, September 2019  

Ordered Universe Symposium, Pembroke College, University of Oxford, September 2019

Ordered Universe Symposium, Pembroke College, University of Oxford, September 2019  

Ordered Universe Symposium, Pembroke College, University of Oxford, September 2019