Medieval Science and Technology

by Elspeth Whitney


Thematic chapters vividly recreate the mindset and creativity of medieval scientists, enriched by key primary documents, biographical sketches, a glossary, annotated bibliography, and index.

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October 2004


Pages 304
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics World History/Science and Technology
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Medieval science and technology was firmly rooted in Aristotelian explanations of the physical world. This book begins by introducing the basic concepts of the classical tradition, and explains how these ideas were promulgated by the ancient Greeks, preserved and commented on by the great Muslim scholars of the early middle ages, and finally transmitted to western Europe as that region began to grow and expand around 1100 C.E. Specific avenues of inquiry such as astronomy and astrology, optics, chemistry and alchemy, zoology, geography, and medicine are described on their own terms. Rounding out the work is a discussion of the many technological innovations of the medieval age, such as mechanical clocks, firearms, and the blast furnace, that profoundly altered the course of European and world history. Biographical sketches provide insight into the lives and accomplishments of 20 men and women, Christian, Muslim, and pagan, whose works profoundly shaped the era's scientific spirit. Eleven annotated key primary documents afford a fascinating glimpse into how the best minds of the time posed their questions and their answers. An annotated timeline, glossary of terms, several illustrations, and an annotated bibliography round out the work.

Medieval scientists, or natural philosophers, as they were then called, were powerfully influenced by the authority of older traditions, including Christianity and scientific ideas dating back to Plato, Aristotle, and Ptolemy. Yet their respect for these traditions was balanced by an equal respect for reason and the spirit of inquiry. Religious faith, far from dampening scientific and technological innovation, actually buttressed their efforts to understand the natural world as it was generally taken for granted that knowledge acquired through reason would harmonize with religious beliefs. While medieval science and technology did not seek to overthrow the prevailing worldviews of the time, their accomplishments did lay the groundwork for the scientific revolution and European global expansion of the early modern age.

Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsGlossarySeries ForewordPrefaceChronology of EventsOverview and History: The Classical Tradition and the Early Middle AgesInstitutional History: The High and Late Middle AgesAristotle's Natural Philosophy and the Medieval Scientific World ViewThe Exact Sciences: Mathematics, Astronomy and Cosmology, Astrology, Statics, Kinematics and Dynamics, OpticsThe Biological and Earth Sciences: The Sciences of Matter (Chemistry and Alchemy), Medicine, Zoology, Botany, Geology and Meteorology, GeographyMedieval TechnologyThe Impact of Medieval Science and TechnologyBiographiesPrimary DocumentsAnnotated Bibliography



[W]ould be useful as a very basic course resource or as an introduction to the topic for general audiences. Recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through graduate students.—Choice

^IMedieval Science and Technology^R is recommended to libraries as a resource of interest to anyone who wants to know more about the Middle Ages, the development of science and technology, and the background of the astounding development of the West in the modern era.—Catholic Library World

[S]urveys major changes of the era, examining the nature and methods of medieval inquiry from astronomy to chemistry and geography, discussing how technological inventions of the times changed world history, and including biographical sketches of the achievements of 20 selected men and women who contributed vastly to the changes in Medieval scientific thinking.—MBR Bookwatch/Donovan's Bookshelf

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