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Medieval Science

Regarding your March editorial, I think you underestimate your chosen era of history. I suppose it depends how narrowly you want to define "science", but some great minds were at work in the European middle ages.

In England alone, consider Roger Bacon (1214-1294 -- well before Francis) and Robert Grosseteste (1170-1253). Both were outstanding mathematicians and astronomers. You must forgive them if they used their astronomy mainly for setting the date of Easter. That was the project that the medieval equivalent of FRST was funding at that time.

And the split between astronomy-astrology and chemistry-alchemy was not so distinct then, either. Astrology and alchemy were simply examples of "science" applied to practical ends -- not irrational ones given the intellectual framework of the time. They only became "superstitious nonsense" when people held onto their belief in them when they should have known better. It was astrology and alchemy that provided the impetus to investigations that led to astronomy and chemistry.

I agree that recreating medieval apparatus is not recreating medieval science -- it is merely re-enacting it. You cannot recreate the science unless you can put yourself into the culture, and forget everything that has been discovered since.

But doesn't this apply to all your "medieval" activities? Can the people making weapons and armour really be considered to be recreating the era in any real way unless they risk being killed, and having their survival depend on the quality of their equipment? Even medieval jousts were pretty dangerous exercises.

Any can the producers of illuminated manuscripts do any more than reproduce the artifacts unless they can live in the faith (or superstition, if you like) of the medieval monks?

I think the point I'm making is that it is the best we can manage is to reproduce the physical bits of the middle ages; we can't relive the cultural/intellectual/spiritual aspects. And these aspects are the essential bits of science.

And with that word we riden forth our weye...

David Swain, Levin