A medieval computer


In a little more than a month, Manchester (UK) will host the largest conference in the history of science, technology and medicine in recent years. The 24th International Congress of History of Science, Technology and Medicine will take place over a whole week (21-28 July) and already promises to be a memorable event. The Congress meets every four years around the globe (last time it was in Budapest, and before then in Beijing), so it is particularly exciting to see it happening in the UK (although, sadly, I won’t be able to attend it!). The organisers have set up a website with a wealth of information: along with the programme (which is searchable, of course), there is a terrific blog where participants at the Congress can showcase their own research. The piece below is one such example, and a particularly exciting one at that: it is written by Seb Falk, a PhD student at Cambridge University currently working on a unique medieval manuscript, The Equatorie of the Planetis. The text describes a ‘medieval computer’ (i.e. calculating device) that could be used to predict the position of the luminaries and the five known planets. Among other things such a device may have assisted the medieval astrologer when casting horoscopes.

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Crawford 2013 podcast and other considerations

Almost a month has passed since our 2013 Crawford Lecture, a month full of exam marking, as May is the most intense period of the exam diet here in Edinburgh. But the sun now shines, both literally and metaphorically, students are enjoying some well deserved break, and I can now look forward to a summer of research. I hope to post soon something about astrological talismans and potions, but before doing that I’d like to announce that the podcast of Professor Sven Dupré‘s magnificent lecture is now available (here), and offer some general considerations.

I thoroughly enjoyed the lecture. It nicely encapsulated the best interdisciplinary research that is now conducted in the history of science. It was about Galileo, but not on Galileo. It was about his intellectual, social, and cultural context, not just about the Renaissance genius. Yes, because I have always felt uncomfortable around geniuses in history (I have yet to meet one in person!). Continue reading