Medieval science, Science

Medieval Science:

We can  record  the sum total  of  the medieval  achievement  in  the natural sciences in a few lines. It can be put down as a few notes on natural history  and minerals, a treatise on sporting birds, such as falcons, hawks etc., some improvements  in  Ibn al-Haitham's optics and some criticism of Aristotle's  ideas. In mathematics and astronomy, the Arabic algebra and Indian numerals were  introduced and Ptolemy's Almagest was translated. The medieval European astronomers could not go much beyond  the Arab contribution in observational astronomy although  they added a few details. They made some contribution to trigonometry and  the construction of  instruments. However, there was no radical revision of astronomy. Robert Growteste ( 1168-1  2531), a Bishop and Chancellor of Oxford University, was a leading scientist of the Middle Ages. He thought of science as  a means of  illustrating  theological truths. He experimented with light and thought of  it as divine illumination. There were many other such 'scientists'  in  the Middle Ages. Those who questioned  the prevalent religious beliefs, were likely  to be prosecuted for heresy! Even the idea  that man could reach God directly without intermediaries, such as priests, was considered a heresy. The Middle Ages were an era of faith and of regimented  thinking. The feudal society in its social, economic and intellectual  character was again a stagnant society. The limired contribution  of medieval  xience under such conditions is understandable.  It is, indeed, unfair  to expect more of such a xience than  what was demanded  from  it in its time! However, the feudal society was definitely on a higher technical level than the slave society of the Iron Age.  In fact, the  impetus to technical  innovations had existed  from  the beginning of the Middle Ages. This arose from the need  for better  use  of land. It was here that the peasant and the workman could use and improve the classical techniques. For most of  the Middle Ages  there was a chronic labour shortage with  the labour force of slaves no longer available and with the expansion of  cultivable land  in  the countryside. Thus, human labour was sought to be substituted by mechanical means; manpower shortage led  to the use of animal, wind and water-power. Thus, we  find  that many  technical developments took  place  in medieval  Europe though most of  them seem  to have come from the East, especially from China.

Posted Date: 9/27/2012 8:49:41 AM | Location : United States







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