Date: Sun Feb 16, 2003 6:17 pm
Subject: Links: Medieval Science, Mathematics, and Medicine

Hello everyone. This week's Links list is about Medieval Science, Math and Medicine. Even if those subjects aren't your "thing," I believe the list is worth a closer look. Musicians will find enlightenment in the site Ivars Peterson's MathTrek: Medieval Harmony. Cooks will find some amusing information in the Gode Cookery's Medieval Botanica and the Medieval Weights and Measures sites. Fighters might find The Geometry of War fascinating. Artists might find something interesting in Images of the History of Medicine. Those into the Dramatic Arts can find two sites dedicated to science and technology/medicine in Shakespeare and Chaucer's times.

As always, please forward this list wherever it will find an interested audience and feel free to update your own links lists with this list.



Medieval Mathematics
(Site excerpt) Mathematics Through the Middle Ages (320-1660AD) An idosyncratic essay by Paul Dickson for History of Mathematics 07305 (University of South Australia, 1996). In the history of mathematics as a science there existed a so called 'Golden Age' centred in ancient Greece and the surrounding Mediterranean from about 600BC to 300AD, many advances were made and recorded in this time. Then there was the decline of the Dark (or early Middle) Ages that started with the sacking of Rome and the destruction of most of the knowledge contained therein. During this time much of the remaining knowledge of the ancient world was preserved by Byzantium, the rest lay scattered in small monasteries spread throughout Mediterranean Europe. In the period from 300AD to 1600AD there existed two major sub-divisions, the early Middle Ages, or Dark Ages, and the late Middle Ages, just before the Renaissance. In the early Middle Ages mathematics made no progress, but in the late Middle Ages there were a few advances and much of what had been forgotten from the ancient world was rediscovered and re-evaluated. In the late Middle Ages education was introduced in earnest by the Catholic Church and knowledge of these rediscovered techniques was spread to the common man.

Aligning Earth and Sky (medieval Japanese Astronomy)
(Site Excerpt) Ancient Astronomy in the Kinki Area of Japan
By Steve Renshaw and Saori Ihara March, 1997
A visitor who has only a few days to spend in some of the ancient cities of Japan will be overwhelmed by the large number of beautiful temples, shrines, and gardens which are still preserved. Unfortunately, the changing winds of history and modern urban development have obliterated many of the sites and relics of ancient astronomical activity in Japan. However, the Kinki region (which includes not only the large metropolis of Osaka but Kyoto, Nara, and the Asuka area to the south), can provide the traveler with some glimpse of a past in which astronomical observation played a central role in affairs of state as well as the day-to-day life of ordinary citizens.

Arabic Mathematics: Forgotten Brilliance
(Site Excerpt) Recent research paints a new picture of the debt that we owe to Arabic/Islamic mathematics. Certainly many of the ideas which were previously thought to have been brilliant new conceptions due to European mathematicians of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are now known to have been developed by Arabic/Islamic mathematicians around four centuries earlier. In many respects the mathematics studied today is far closer in style to that of the Arabic/Islamic contribution than to that of the Greeks.

The Galileo Project
(Site Excerpt) The Galileo Project is a hypertext source of information on the life and work of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) and the science of his time. The project is supported by the Office of the Vice President of Computing of Rice University. The initial stages were made possible by a grant from the Council on Library Resources to Fondren Library.

The Geometry of War
(Site Excerpt) The mathematicians of the Renaissance applied their geometry to all manner of practical disciplines - from navigation and surveying to cartography, perspective and dialling. They aimed to demonstrate the usefulness of geometry as well as its ingenuity and certainty, and to associate it with action, achievement and progress. Many new instruments
were designed in this context, as the collections of the Museum of the History of Science amply demonstrate.

Johannes Kepler: His Life, His Laws and Times
(Site excerpt) Johannes Kepler was born at 2:30 PM on December 27, 1571, in Weil der Stadt, Württemburg, in the Holy Roman Empire. He was a sickly child and his parents were poor. But his evident intelligence earned him a scholarship to the University of Tübingen to study for the Lutheran ministry. There he was introduced to and delighted in the ideas of Copernicus. In 1596, while a mathematics teacher in Graz, he wrote the first outspoken defense of the Copernican system, the Mysterium Cosmographicum.

Medieval Mathematics and Mathematicians
(Site Excerpt) The medieval period was a period of gradual mathematical development. In other ways it was a period of great philosophical shifts, not so much on the surface as the Roman Church dominated much of philosophy and all of religion but underneath, the old Aristotelian views began to erode. Though it would dominate education for many more centuries, certain notions began to be be admitted. Most particularly, we see a lively discussion of the infinite, actual and potential.

Medieval Technology Page
(Site Excerpt) The Medieval Technology Pages are an attempt to provide accurate, referenced information on technological innovation and related subjects in western Europe during the Middle Ages. There are several ways to access this information. The most direct method is through the Subject Index which provides direct access to all the technology pages. Many of the articles are also present in a historical Timeline. And material can be found by examining the References which back-reference all articles through the sources used.

The Alchemy Web Site
(Site Excerpt) This site is organised by Adam McLean, the well known authority on alchemical texts and symbolism, author and publisher of over 40 books on alchemical and Hermetic ideas.
Alchemy is a complex subject with many different interconnected aspects. Many people still only think of the quest of the philosophers' stone to change base metals into gold. On this web site you will be able to explore the riches of alchemical texts, some of which are wonderful works of allegorical literature, delve into its amazing, beautiful and enigmatic symbolism, and ponder its underlying hermetic philosophy, which holds a picture of the interconnection of the Macrocosm and Microcosm.

Medieval Science and Scientific Instruments
(Site Excerpt) Since I was a child I have had a strong interest in how we humans understand and measure our world. Consequently I have played with and collected measuring instruments for almost as long as I can remember. This interest in turn lead me to pursue the types of measurements made by earlier cultures, in particular Medieval Europe, and how they made them. Such instruments are rare, and most of us have little opportunity to see, let alone handle or own such artifacts. Thus for about fifteen years I have been occasionally building my own working replicas of ancient scientific and philosophical instruments. For equally long I have been giving occasional lectures on the origins and use of these devices. Recently I have also given workshops on making one's own simple replicas. This site has been created to share my interests and to support these lectures and workshops.

The Hands-on Astrolabe page
(Site Excerpt) This exercise was developed to be used at the TOPS 1995 workshop in Kamuela (by O. Hainaut and K. Meech), as an activity to get students and teachers more quickly familiar with the night sky and to easily give them the ability to plan observations. Below is a description of the astrolabe and its uses, as well as instructions on how to build one with location specific templates you can download from the web.

History of Mathematics
This site goes straight to the menus without commentary. Original works and translations are cited.

Images from the History of Medicine
(Site Excerpt) Welcome to Images from the History of Medicine (IHM). This system provides access to the nearly 60,000 images in the prints and photograph collection of the History of Medicine Division (HMD) of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). The collection includes portraits, pictures of institutions, caricatures, genre scenes, and graphic art in a variety of media, illustrating the social and historical aspects of medicine.

History of Science & Science Museums
A comprehensive list of websites on the history of Science (including museums dedicated tot he subject). Note that some of the science included is modern.

The Medieval Science List
You may subscribe by sending the message "SUBSCRIBE" to

Medieval Weights and Measure
This article, at, covers a great many systems of measurements. Do not be fooled by the title at the top of the page (Chinese weights and measures). You must scroll down the page to access the medieval (and modern) information links.

History of Astronomy: Topics: Archaeoastronomy, Ancient Astronomy and Ethnoastronomy
A comprehensive list of astronomy links.

Gode Cookery's Medieval Botanica (Thanks, Huen :)
(Site excerpt) Civilizations as early as the Chaldean in southwestern Asia were among the first to have a belief in plants that never existed, and the practice continued well beyond the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Originally, this was done to disperse the mystery surrounding certain seemingly-miraculous events and to symbolically embody in a physical form various aspects - wealth, happiness, fertility, illness, etc. Later, people began to invent "nonsense plants" to enliven the tale of an otherwise boring voyage, and with the invention of the printed book, to entertain readers who loved to believe in such fables. Even spices, which were an important element of Medieval food, commerce, trade, & society, were given exotic & incredible backgrounds. The fabulous trees and fauna discussed here are just a small example of the many fantastic plants our medieval forebears believed in.

The Current Date and Time in Old English
(Site Excerpt for Sunday, Feb. 16th at approx. 5:10 PM) Anno mmiii. Todæg is se xvi dæg þæs monþes þe mon nemneð Februarius, þæt is on ure geþeode solmonað. Hit is sunnandæg. Nu is seo xvii tid. 2003. Today is the 16th day of the month that is called Februarius, that is in our tongue February. It is Sunday. It is now the 17th hour [after midnight].

History of Mathematics
(Site excerpt) Every culture on earth has developed some mathematics. In some cases, this mathematics has spread from one culture to another. Now there is one predominant international mathematics, and this mathematics has quite a history. It has roots in ancient Egypt and Babylonia, then grew rapidly in ancient Greece. Mathematics written in ancient Greek was translated into Arabic. About the same time some mathematics of India was translated into Arabic. Later some of this mathematics was translated into Latin and became the mathematics of Western Europe. Over a period of several hundred years, it became the mathematics of the world.

Renaissance Mathematics (A Lesson plan)
(Site Excerpt) This lesson intends to present public school students a brief history of the progress of mathematics during the Renaissance. The lesson will combine an introduction to Renaissance mathematical developments with an explanation of its interactions with social influences of the time. Hopefully students will have a fresh understanding of the Renaissance period from this particular perspective.

A Walk through Time
The Evolution of Time Measurement through the Ages (some medieval information)

Medieval Science
A list of written sources for further study

The Art of Renaissance Science
(Site Excerpt) The music you will hear if you click on this link is typical music of the Renaissance, music that would have been familiar to the famous Italian scientist, Galileo Galilei, or to his father, who was himself a musician.The significance of this music for Galileo's important studies of motion, his celebrated connection with the leaning tower of Pisa, and especially his experiments with inclined planes and his analysis of accelerated motion associated with the leaning tower of Pisa, will become clear a bit later in this program, devoted to the genius of Galileo and the relation between his role in the Scientific Revolution and the equally remarkable achievements of Renaissance artists reflected, in part, in the discovery and application of mathematical perpective. But first, what of Galileo and the Scientific Revolution?

Bibliography of Science and Technology in the Middle Ages
(Site Excerpt, first few sources) Aitchison, Leslie. A History of Metals. 2 vols. London, 1960.
Arano, Luisa Cogliati. The Medieval Health Handbook, Tacuinum sanitatis. Translated by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook. New York, 1976.
Ascherl, Rosemary. "The Technology of Chivalry in Reality and Romances." In The study of Chivalry: Resources and Approaches, edited by Howell Chickering and Thomas Seiler, 263-311. Kalamazoo, Michigan, 1988.
Bachrach, Bernard S. "Charles Martel, Mounted Shock Combat, the Stirrup, and Feudal Origins." Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 7 (1970): 47-76.
Bachrach, Bernard S. Merovingian Military Organization, 481-751. Minneapolis, 1972.

European Medieval Science
Beginner's Guide to Research in the History of Science. A list of sources for further study by Horus Pubications on the Internet (don't be put off by the very Egyptian page decorations. The topic of the bib. IS medieval science history).

Epact: Scientific Instruments of Medieval and Renaissance Europe
(Site Excerpt) Epact is an electronic catalogue of medieval and renaissance scientific instruments from four European museums: the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Florence , the British Museum, London, and the Museum Boerhaave, Leiden. Together, these museums house the finest collections of early scientific instruments in the world.
Epact consists of 520 catalogue entries and a variety of supporting material. All European instruments from the four museums by makers who were active before 1600 have been entered in the catalogue. They include astrolabes, armillary spheres, sundials, quadrants, nocturnals, compendia, surveying instruments, and so on. Examples range from ordinary instruments for everyday use to more extravagant and often lavish pieces destined for the cabinets of princes.

The Hypathia Institute
A website dedicated to Women and the History of Science.

The Golden Ages of Medieval Science
(Site Excerpt) The Golden Age Of Medieval Science by Sir Guillaume "A Ph.D. In Fightology" de la Belgique
Many people believe that the Middle Ages was to scientific research what Chernobyl was to environmental conservation. To dispel this myth, I have conducted extensive research during the time required for "Chain Saw Zombie Hunt XVII" to boot up on my new PlayStation2, and I have discovered there were, in fact, significant advances in science during the Middle Ages. Here, then, is an overview of the medieval sciences which every history buff should be familiar with. (Ed. Note: Sir Guillaume is now a Duke of his kingdom and is the author/owner of the e-column Chivalry Today).

Science and Technology in Shakespeare's World
(Site Excerpt) The Renaissance period exhibited a phenomenal flurry of activity in the areas today we would call science and technology. Shakespeare lived at the threshold of the period which saw a "revolution" in the way men thought about the world and themselves. Knowledge became powerful, not just as another way to worship the works of God, but as a way to obtain mastery over nature and other men.

Technology and Religion, Technology as Religion: Medieval Science
(Site Excerpt) The project of technological advancement is not a recent development but instead has its roots in the Middle Ages - and it is here also that the link between technology and religion develops. Technology came to be identified specifically with Christian transcendence of a sinful word and Christian redemption from a fallen human nature.

Byzantine Mediciane
(Site Excerpt) Dioscurides was a physician who resided in Rome during the first century. He composed a compendium of all the materia medica then known from Greek medicine and other sources. He may have learned his medicine by practical experience while in the legions and he most certainly relied on an earlier work by the physician Crateuas. His work describes some 600 plants and their possible medical use.

Gemological Pharmacopaeia
(Site Excerpt) In the Middle Ages, the well stocked apothecary probably carried as many remedies for coughs, eye problems, rheumatism and indigestion (not to mention the plague) as does a modern pharmacist. But the potions, elixirs, and concoctions meted out by old-time medicine men were much more exotic than today's aspirins and cough syrups, often employing such ingredients as crab eyes, stag horn, and. . . gems! From earliest times, gems were worn not as mere ornament, but because of special properties they were believed to possess. Gems were used to protect people from harm and disease, to influence circumstances, and to improve physical and mental condition. They were believed to avert tempests or the plague, heal ailments of the eyes, or correct deficiencies of the personality. Gems were used to inspire sexual passion . . . or to curb it.

(Site Excerpt) Before the rise of scientific, rational thought in the 16th century, how did doctors and patients go about curing and being cured? A well-described doctor is the one in the General Prologue to Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales', written in the last 15 years of the 14th century, exactly 600 years ago, in fact. I will read Chaucer's description of him,
using the best of the modern English translations:
"There was a Medical Practitioner:
Nowhere a better expositioner
On points of medicine and pathology.
For he was grounded in astrology;
Treating his patients with most modern physic
Dependent on his skill in natural magic;
He knew which times would be the most propitious
For all his cures to be most expeditious.
He knew the cause of every malady,
If it was hot or cold or moist or dry
And where its seat and what its composition:
You'd nowhere find a more adept physician.

Medieval Europe - Mathematics and the Liberal Arts
(Site Excerpt) The Mathematics and the Liberal Arts pages are intended to be a resource for student research projects and for teachers interested in using the history of mathematics in their courses. Many pages focus on ethnomathematics and in the connections between mathematics and other disciplines. The notes in these pages are intended as much to evoke ideas as to indicate what the books and articles are about. They are not intended as reviews. However, some items have been reviewed in Mathematical Reviews, published by The American Mathematical Society. When the mathematical review (MR) number and reviewer are known to the author of these pages, they are given as part of the bibliographic citation.

(Site Excerpt) Engines of Ingenuity episode 294.... Hroswitha wrote her comedies with the life-giving animation that the mystery and miracle plays made popular in the High Middle Ages -- after her death. But her writings had another remarkable dimension. Hroswitha was also grounded in science and mathematics. That understanding shines through her works.

Ivars Peterson's MathTrek: Medieval Harmony
(Site Excerpt) Philippe de Vitry (1291-1361) was one of the most prominent figures in medieval music. He was the author of an important music theory text, Ars Nova, which introduced new rhythmic schemes and musical notation. He had a deep knowledge of philosophy, rhetoric, and mathematics.In many ways, de Vitry's interests and accomplishments reflected the Pythagorean view that music is a subdivision of arithmetic, as shown, for example, in the simple mathematical relations between pitch and length of a string (see Circles of Dissonance, Nov. 24, 1997). His work honored the dictum of the Roman philosopher Boethius (480-524) that "music is number made audible."