Loading presentation...

Present Remotely

Send the link below via email or IM


Present to your audience

Start remote presentation

  • Invited audience members will follow you as you navigate and present
  • People invited to a presentation do not need a Prezi account
  • This link expires 10 minutes after you close the presentation
  • A maximum of 30 users can follow your presentation
  • Learn more about this feature in our knowledge base article

Do you really want to delete this prezi?

Neither you, nor the coeditors you shared it with will be able to recover it again.


Medieval Science: Translation and Transmission

This prezi was made to instruct on the development and spread of scientific ideas within and between cultures from the early Greeks to late medieval scientists in order to provide the context for the next lecture on the 'scientific revolution'.

Jon Klauke

on 14 November 2017

Comments (0)

Please log in to add your comment.

Report abuse

Transcript of Medieval Science: Translation and Transmission

How did scientific knowledge spread to the East, and back to the West during the medieval period?

What paths did knowledge follow as it travelled within and between cultures and languages?

How did scientific knowledge change as it travelled?
600 BC
1600 AD
400 BC
200 BC
200 AD
400 AD
600 AD
800 AD
1000 AD
1200 AD
1400 AD
Rational natural causes for change (non-mythological)
Role and reliability of the senses
Elemental and atomic theory (rational theory)

Organized education
“thinking about thinking”
Methods of thought and argument (logic, rhetoric)
Role of observation
Separation of terrestrial and extra-terrestial
Introduction of “data”
Key points
Thales (c. 625-547 BC) – non-mythological causes
Anaximander (c. 610-545 BC) – analyzed nature rationally
Heraclitus (c. 500 BC) – change natural, senses deceptive
Pythagoras (c. 560-480 BC) – mathematics, transmigration of souls, ‘kosmos’
Xenophanes (c. 570-478 BC) – opposed transmigration & divine interaction
Empedocles of Acrages (c. 482-432 BC) – 4 elements, ‘force’ & ‘matter’
Democritus (c. 470-404 BC) – atomic theory
Anaxagoras (c. 500-428 BC) – ‘seed’ elemental theory, intelligent design, founded first school in Athens
Presocratic Philosophers
The Early Greeks
Socrates (469-399 BC) – ‘why’ rather than ‘how’
Plato (427-347 BC) – Academy, Timaeus
Aristotle (384-322 BC) – Logic, Rhetoric, On the Heavens, Lyceum
Hippocrates (460-370 BC) –medical ethics, natural causes for disease
Eudoxus of Cnidus (c. 400-347 BC) – observatory, homocentric spheres
Epicurus of Samon (341-270 BC) – divided philosophy: ethics, physics, logic
The Socratic Philosophers
Development of highly structured and organized mathematics
Emphasis on applied mathematics (mechanics, astronomy)
Creation of foundational scientific theories (astronomy, medicine, geography)
Summaries of knowledge
Creation of first systems of education (Artes Liberalis; Liberal Arts)
Spread of Hellenistic Culture

Ptolemy I Soter (r. 305-283 BC) – founded the library of Alexandria
Euclid (fl. 295 BC) – Elements of Geometry, Optics
Archimedes (c. 287-212 BC) – geometry, mechanics, applied math, calculus?
Aristarchus of Samos (c. 310-230 BC) – heliocentrism, sizes & distances of sun and moon
Eratosthanes (c. 275-195 BC) – terrestrial circumference, long. & lat.
Apollonius of Perge (b. 262 BC) – conic geometry, epicycle, eccentric
Hipparchus (~147-127 BC) – observations, spherical trigonometry
Strabo (63 BC – 25 AD) – geography
Dioscorides Pedanius (~50-70AD) – De Materia Medica, pharmocology
Claudius Ptolemaeus (c. 100-170 AD) – Almagest, Tetrabiblos
Galen of Pergamum (130-204 AD) – practical & theoretical medicine
Diophantus of Alexandria (~250 AD) - arithmetic

Lucretius (c. 95-50 BC) – De Rerum Natura, non-determinism
Vitruvius Pollip (c. 1st c BC) – architecture
Pliny the Elder (c. 23-70) – Natural History
Plotinus (205-270) – neoplatonism
Later Greeks
Alexander the Great
Simplicius (c. 490-560) – projectile motion, Aristotelianism
John Philoponus (490-570) – Impetus theory
Boethius (c. 480-524) – 'Consolation of Philosophy', trans. Plato, Aristotle, Artes Liberalis
Isidore of Seville (560-636) – Etymologies
Bede (674-735) – De Rerum natura, De Temporum Ratione
Latin (post-Romans)
Arabic Science in the Medieval West 1:
Paths of Transmission
Primary Questions
Creation of Greek colonies throughout Persia (Middle East)
Influx of Nestorian Christians and Jews into the Middle East
Convergence of three cultural systems of knowledge:
Persian astrology / calendars
Indian mathematics
Greek Hellenistic philosophy / science
Key Points
Alexander the Great
King Shapur I (r. 241-272) – Sassanid, founded medical school in Jundishapur
Chosroes I (r. 531-579) – Recruited Greek exiles to teach at Jundishapur

Lamblichus (ca. 250-325) – Founded (Neoplatonist) school in Syria
Sergius of Reshaina (d. 536) – trans. Aristotle into Syriac
Severus Sebokht (d. 667 AD) – Nestorian bishop, used Hindu numerals
Persians (Pahlavi)
Origin of Arabic textual (and Quranic) language
Religious disputes settled (Quran) and created (Sunni/Shi’ite)
Greek science / philosophy spreads beyond Nestorian monasteries to Arabic society
Islamic society first exposed to Greek philosophy, logic, and geometry
Birth of Islamic philosophy (and incorporation of Greek ideas into Islamic theology)
Arabic scholars actively begin combining Greek, Persian and Hindu knowledge
First state sponsored learning institutions created and active patronage of science, manuscript collection and translation
Key Points
Syriac / Greek

Bayt al-Hikma

Muhammad (c. 570-632)
Rushidun Caliphate (c. 632-661)
1st Quranic texts
Umayyad Caliphate (661-750)
Abbasib Caliphs
Al-Mansur (r. 754-775)
Al-Mahdi (r. 775-785)
Harun al-Rashid (786-809)
Yahya ibn Khalid ibn Barmak (Vizer)
Al-Ma’mun (r. 813-833)

Seljuk Sultanate (1037 – 1258)
Early Arabic
Centers of knowledge
Theophilus of Edessa (Nestorian) (d. 789) – Court astrologer of al-Mahdi
Al-Bitriq (Christian) – translated Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos for al-Mahdi
Mash’allah (Jewish) (fl. 762-809) – Court astrologer for al-Mansur to al-Ma’mun, helped found Baghdad
Abu Sahlibn Nawbaht (Nestorian) – At Bayt al-Hikma, Astrological signs pre-ordained Abbasid rule
Ibn Qutayb (d. 889) – Adab al-Katib; education of the secretaries
Al-Khawarizmi (fl. 828) – kitab al-Jabr; algebra, Zij al-Sindhind; astronomy, De numero Indorum; Hindu mathematics
Al-Hajjaj ibn Matar (fl. 786-833) – translated Euclid’s Elements, Ptolemy’s Almagest
Al-Kindi (c. 801-866) – founder of Islamic philosophy, wrote on all sciences, Aristotelian (logic), attacked fundamentalist theologians
Banu Musa – 3 brothers, sons of Merv astrologer, collected Greek manuscripts, employed translators
Hunayn ibn Ishaq (Jannitus) (808-873) – Nesotrian, traveled for manuscripts, translated plethora of Greek science into Arabic and Syriac
Arabic 1
Political instability
Decreased state patronage of sciences
Increased mathematization of science, nature, and astronomical observations
Expansion of Islamic philosophy
Break between East and West Islamic Caliphate
Continuing disputes concerning Aristotelianism and (Neo)Platonism
Increased hostility between Ulema (Theologians) and Falasifa (Philosophers)
Search for alternative to Ptolemy begins (in west)
Al-Ghazali marks distinction between reality and philosophy, astronomy becomes increasingly mathematized (problems) conceiting reality
Geometry applied to texts, perspective (re)discovered
Relations between Islam and Christian West more hostile (Crusades, etc.)
Relations concerning trade and knowledge grow steadily
Key Points
Arabic 2
Al-Battani (Albategnius) (858-929) – Built al-Raqqa observatory (Syria), ‘Zij al-Sabi’; ‘De scientia Stellarum’, improvement on Ptolemy
Al-Farabi (Alpharabius) (ca. 870-950) – ‘De Scientiis’; on the sciences, tried to reconcile Platonism and Aristotelianism
Al-Razi (Rhazes) (ca. 854-930) – Wrote 232 medical texts, emphasized observation rather than theory
Al-Biruni (973-1050) – Wrote 146 scientific texts, anti-Aristotelian
Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037) – Physician, impetus theory, mechanics
Al-Ghazali (Algazel) (1058-1111) – ‘Incoherence of the Philosophers’, mysticism
Al-Haytham (Alhazen) (ca. 965-1041) – Wrote 92 texts, optics / math, invented science of perspective, scientific method of investigation
Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) (1135-1204) – Jewish philosopher, advisor to rulers (Cordoba, Fez, Cairo), views on Aristotle / Ptolemy infl. Thomas Aquinas
Arabic 2 (East)
‘Abd al-Rahman II (r. 822-852) – Funded travelers to buy books in East
Caliph al-Hakem II (r. 961-976) – Built library at Cordoba & 23 schools
‘Abbas ibn Firmas (d. 887) – Built first observatory in Cordoba, wrote astronomical tables (Zij)
Hasday ibn Shaprut (Jewish) – vizier, diplomat to Byz, Emp, collected books and funded translations
Abd’l Qasim al-Zahrawi (Abulcasis) (c. 936-1013) – Medical encyclopedia, esb. Terminology
Ibn al-Zarqali (Arczachel) (d. 1100) – instruments & observations, tables (Zij) became the Alfonsine/Toledan tables
Ibn Bajja (Avempace) (b. 1070) – vizier, rejected Ptolemy & Aristotle
Ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1126-1198) – Opposed al-Ghazali, promoted Aristotelianism & Neoplatonism, rejected Ptolemy (eccentrics, epicycles), attacked by fundamentalist theologians
Al-Bitruji (Alpetragius) (fl. 1190) – ‘kitab fi’l-Hay’a’, astronomy without eccentrics & epicycles
Arabic 2 (West)
Attempted to combine Aristotelianism, Neoplatonism and ‘Kalam’ (Islamic philosophical method by which theological truths are discovered through logic and debate)
Existence due to an agent-cause (matter and form cannot be the origin or prima causa)
Tried to combine rational philosophy with Islamic theology
Advanced Aristotle’s scientific method
Promoted impetus theory (early concept of momentum)
Disputed Judicial Astrology
Avicennism became a major philosophy
Abu ‘Ali al-Husain Ibn Sina
Became an advocate of mystical Islam
Translated works of Aristotle and Plato
Major work, ‘Tahafut al-Falasifa’; The Incoherence of the Philosophers
Argued against the 20 major philosophical arguments from Greek authors (Aristotle, Plato), found 17 heretical and 3 fully opposed to Islamic belief
All causes should be sought in God not the natural world
“I took it upon myself to write this book in refutation of the ancient philosophers, to show the incoherence of their belief and the contradiction of their word in matters relating to metaphysics; to uncover the dangers of their doctrine and its shortcomings.”
“the prohibiting and permitting of terms derives from what the outer meaning of the religious text indicates.”
Attacked the incorporation of Philosophy with theology
Logic and Rhetoric had no place in theological knowledge
Primarily aimed at the Mutazilites (Arabic school that believed scholars should apply Greek logic and philosophy to Islamic theology)
Promoted religious control over language, vocabulary and scientific terminology; attacked foreign intellectual and linguistic influence
Abu hamid al-Ghazali
Abu ‘Ali al-Hasan ibn al-Haytham
Mathematical and observational study of optics
Advanced the scientific method (even first principles must be observed)
Discovered perspective
Educated in theology, medicine, law, philosophy
Read works of Ibn Sina
Took astronomical observations in Marrakesh 1152
Wrote commentaries on Aristotle, Plato
Restored Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism into Islamic thought
Was opposed by fundamentalist Islamic scholars
Attacked al-Ghazali, “Tahafut al-Tahafut”, The Incoherence of the Incoherence
Rejected the Ptolemaic model, eccentrics and epicycles
Promoted the need for a new astronomical model
Began dispute between Averroeists (model and reality the same) and Ptolemaists (model just mathematics, not reality)
Major gateway between Islamic and Christian scholars, very influential in “the West”
Ibn Rushd
Charlemagne (c. 742-814)
Carolingian Renaissance
Promoted education, reading, writing, and standardization
Alcuin of York (c. 735-804)
Promoted punctuation
Developed Carolingian reforms
Led first community of scholars, they would go on to form others
Period of translation and transmission - few original Latin works
Greek and Arabic sciences beginning to be (re)introduced into Western Europe from borders of Islamic and Christian areas
Role of current and former Islamic cities as centers of scholarly activity and cross-cultural interaction
Locations of most scholarly work were places of recent conflict (Crusades, Reconquista, etc.)
Largely motivated by individual scholars – few state-sponsored scholars
Required extensive travel to “seek out” manuscripts
Creation of groups of scholars and the rise of the first proto-universities (Cathedral schools)
Itinerant Scholars
Expansion of Latin scientific vocabulary through translation
Latin libraries built and expanded
Key Points
Baghdad (Middle East)
Acre (Levant)
Cairo (Egypt)
Constantinople (Byzantine)
Salerno (Italy)
Palermo (Italy)
Cordoba (Spain)
Toledo (Spain)
Major places of transmission
Raymond Archbishop of Toledo (1125-1151) – established Toledo as international center of scholarship and translation
Bishop Michael of Tarazona (fl. 1130) – many translation dedicated to him
Roger II (r. 1130-1154) – Norman ruler of Sicily, used Greek, Latin and Arabic in his court, sponsored translations into Latin, son/heir William I continued policies
Frederick II of Hohenstauffen (r. 1212-1250) – Holy Roman Emperor, king of two Sicilys, raised in Palermo, funded translators (John of Palermo, master Theodorus, Michael Scot(us), Fibonacci)
Latin Patrons
Gilbert d’Aurillac (c. 945-1003) – Translated astronomical works, taught mathematics at Reims Cathedral, became Pope Silvester II
Constantine the African (c. 1020-1085) – converted to Christianity, translated Arabic medical works in Salerno, helped est. medical school
Stephan of Antioch (fl. 1127) – moved Pisa to Syria, learned Arabic, translated medical and astronomical texts, wrote list of equivalent Latin, Greek, Arabic synonyms
Adelard of Bath (c. 1080-1152) – travelled extensively, translated works on mathematics, astronomy, sciences
Petrus Alfonsi (Moses Sephardi) - (Jewish), Alfonsine tables, introduced Arabic science to England
Domenicus Gundissalinus (c. 1110-1190) – Archbishop of Segovia, translated works of ibn Rushd, al-Kindi, al-Farabi, ibn Sina, Issac Israeli, blended Arabic-Judaia Neoplatonism with Christian Augustine Neoplatonism
Plato of Trivoli (fl. 1140) – translated Ptolemy ‘tetrabiblos’, al-Majriti, and Archimedes with Jewish scholar Abraham bar Hiyya ha-Nasi
Gerard of Cremona (1114-1187) – translated texts in Toledo
Abraham Ibn Ezra (Avenezra) (1086-1164) – Toledo to London, introduced Judeo-Muslim science, wrote works on math, astronomy, astrology, chronology, astrolabe
Robert of Chester (c. 1145-1150) – translated ‘algebra’, math, astronomy, alchemy
Leonardo Fibonacci (c. 1170-1240) – travelled, wrote ‘calculations’, ‘applied geometry’, etc
Michael Scot(us) (c. 1175-1232) – translated al-Bitruji, Aristotle, Ibn Rushd, astrology
James of Venice (fl. 1125-1150) – translated Aristotle’s works from Greek not Arabic in Constantinople
Latin Translators
Travelled to Tours, Laon, Salerno, Sicily, Constantinople, Syria, Spain
‘De Eodem et Diverso’ – modeled on Boethius, summarized the 7 liberal arts
Major work ‘Questiones Naturales’ – 76 questions about natural science, incorporates Arabic science and importance of reason in addition to authority
Translated Euclid’s ‘Elements’
Introduced Hindu numerals to Europe
Adelard of Bath
Educated in Latin schools, moved to Toledo
Translated Ptolemy’s ‘Almagest’ (c. 1175) 1st Latin translation
Translated Greek, Arabic and Hebrew works of: Aristotle, Euclid, Archimedes, Galen, al-Kindi, al-Khwarizmi, al-Razi, Ibn Sina, Ibn al-Haytham, Thabit ibn Qurra, al-Farghani, al-Farabi, Qusta ibn Luqa, Jabir ibn Hayyan, al-Zarqali, Jabir ibn Atlah, Masha’allah, Abu Na’shur, the Banu Musa
Translated al-Farabi’s ‘Kitab al-Ihsa Ulum’ (book on the sciences) – classification and fundamental principles of science
Wrote few original works
Gerard of Cremona
Raised in Algeria, traveled to Provence, Sicily, Egypt, Syria, Constantinople, Pisa
Dedicated some works to Frederick II
Spread the use of Hindu numerals, ‘Liber Abaci’ (1202)
Particularly spead numerals to general business use in both Latin and Arabic society
‘Flos’: a response to mathematics questions proposed by John of Palermo
Solved the “rabbit problem” (population growth): introduced Fibonacci numbers; 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,… (numbers relate to “golden ratio” 1.618…)
Leonardo Fibonacci
Massive political instability
Two schools emerged, that of al-Ghazali (reality) and that of al-Tusi (mathematics)
Increased application of mathematics advancements to astronomical models
Models addressed by specific problems rather than addressing the model as a whole
Using observation and Mathematics to solve mathematical problems – unconcerned with reality
Demonstrated that multiple models produce the same observable effects
Astronomy became an art rather than a science?
Mathematical models and theorems developed would be used (sometimes copied word for word) by later European astronomers
Peak of Arabic Astronomy
Mongols (1258)
Timur Leng (1401)
Reconquista (completed 1492)
Ottoman Turks (1350s – 1550s)
Silk roads
Black Death (1340s)
Portuguese circumnavigate Africa (1480-1520)
Columbus (1492)
Invasions and Economics
Rasad Khaneh (Maragheh) Observatory built by Hulegu Khan in 1259 (in modern Azarbaijan)
Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201-1274) – 1st director of observatory, spherical trigonometry, Tusi-Couple (1260: Copernicus 1543)
Muhyi al-Din al-Maghribi (1220-1283) – moved from Spain to Persia, studied at observatory, works on geometry and trigonometry
Mu’ayyid al-Din al-’Urdi (d. 1266) – Eliminated the equant from Ptolemy’s model, developed 1st non-Ptolemaic model
Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi (1236-1311) – ‘Nehayat al-edrak’; improved Ptolemaic model, possibility for heliocentrism
Ala al-Din Ibn al-Shatir (1304-1375) – (Damascus) used observations of eclipses to alter Ptolemaic model, eliminated all equants, epicycles and eccentrics, earth at absolute center
Shams al-Din al-Khafri (Persian) (d. 1550) – showed that multiple mathematical models achieved the same observational effect, eliminated equants and epicycles from Ptolemy’s model, his ‘commentary on al-Tusi’ represents the highest achievement of Medieval/early modern Arabic astronomy
Arabic 3
Uses uniform circular motion to produce linear motion
Period of Absorption and Revision
Peak of Scholasticism
Logic primary tool of investigation
Continuing development of scientific method
First Universities opened
Expansion of scholarly communities and increased communication
Knowledge & education standardized and institutionalized
Libraries are increasingly expanding
Translations to textbooks
Scholarly activity primarily within the Universities
Less travel to seek knowledge
If one wants knowledge, knows where to go and who to get it from
Latin is universal language of science
Early development of mathematical language
Averroeists vs. Ptolemaists & Nominalists vs. Realists
Key Points
Absorption and Revision
Petrus Alfonsi (Moses Sephardi)
Spanish Jew, converted to Christianity
Patronage from King Alfonso I
Wrote on Jewish and Christian theology
1st Major Latin translations of Arabic astronomy
Traveled to England to court of King Henry I, introduced Arabic science to England
Influenced Adelard of Bath
Robert Grosseteste (c. 1168-1253) – Bishop of Lincoln, translations and commentaries on Aristotle, optics, astronomy, calendar reform scientific method
John of Holyrood (Johannes de Sacrobosco) (c. 1195-1256) – Wrote basic textbooks on astronomy ‘De Sphaera’, math, calendar
Albertus Magnus (c. 1200-1280) – teacher, opened Univ. of Cologne, taught Thomas Aquinas, commentaries on Aristotle
Saint Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) – resolved conflict between theology and natural science, wrote ‘Summa Theologica’
King Alfonso X (1221-1284) – King of Castile & Leon, sponsored translation and scholars, funded ‘Toledan Tables’
Roger Bacon (c. 1219-1292) – commentaries on Aristotle, Alhazen, Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sina, proponent of experimental & mathematical science, experimented in optics
Jean Buridan (c. 1295-1358) – commentaries on Aristotle, wrote textbooks, revised impetus theory, ‘De Caelo et Mundo’ argued for heliocentric model
Levi ben Gerson (1288-1344) – (Jewish) wrote on Arabic astronomy, used observations to correct Ptolemaic model, invented the Jacob’s Staff
Henry of Langenstein (d. 1397) – Lecture on Genesis (handout)
Period of Vernacularization and Application
Beginning of the vernacularization of knowledge
Italian, German, English, Spanish, French
Education spreads beyond the elite classes
Humanism: revival of classical culture
Books copied and translated
Influx of Greek manuscripts from former Byzantine Empire
Focused on Language
Printing Press
Increased the speed of the spread of texts and number of texts
Knowledge more difficult to be controlled
Books become a business (fueled largely by the Reformation)
Increased precision of instruments –> better observations -> revision of old models
Increased communication and wider spread of ideas
Merchant class gains wealth, educates young
Application of classical science, mathematics, and philosophy
Architecture, painting (perspective) – increased focus in the physical world

Chaucer (1343-1400) – Canterbury Tales (Middle English)
William Caxton (1415-1492) – Built first printing press in England, translated works from Latin and French into English (~ 108 books)
Robert Recorde (c. 1512-1558) – Wrote basic textbooks on arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, medicine.; established English scientific vocabulary; invented the equal sign and equations
Dante Alighieri (c. 1265-1321) – The Divine Comedy
Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) – Combined classical culture and Christian philosophy; birth of Humanism
Lorenzo Valla (c. 1407-1457) – Donation of Constantine, Linguistics, Language over content
Regiomontanus (1436-1476) – Math Prof, Univ. of Padua – infused mathematics into Humanism
Niccolo Fontana Tartaglia (1499-1557) – Translated Euclid’s ‘Elements’ into Italian (1st vernacular transl.), focused on content rather than language; ‘Nova Scientia’ (1537) dynamics
Francesco Maurolico (1494-1575) – Mathematician, translated Greek manuscripts from Byzantium with a focus on mathematics
King Alfonso X (1221-1284) – Funded translations into Spanish, used as intermediary between Arabic and Latin
Romances – Troubadours – ‘Song of Roland’, ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’, “Roman de la Rose”
MacGyverism of the arts (skilled at multiple disciplines)
Euclid’s Geometry applied to architecture (Gothic style)
Vitruvius’ works rediscovered (Neo Classical style)
Pythagoras became a cult-like figure (Importance of numerology, numbers and shapes in art)
Ibn al-Haytham’s works translated and spread (Perspective)
Brunelleschi (Dome of Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore), Nave of the Santo Spiritio)
Ibn al-Haytham’s ‘Optics’ leads to linear perspective
Humanism refocused art on classical culture
Wealth leads to increased patronage (Medici family – Florence)
Mechanical Clocks
Complex machines (Brunelleschi’s lift)
Canons -> ballistics
Development of celestial mathematical (geometry) navigation, measurement of variable compass, spherical trigonometry applied to charts, maps, course calculations, invention of instruments (cross-staff, variable compass)
Merchant companies hired scholars to train navigators
Gothic vs. NeoClassical
Pythagoras and Numerology
Full transcript