Fall 2012 ­– Gallatin School, NYU

Instructor: Daniel Newsome - email:

Office Hours: Mondays from 2:00-3:00 in rm. 416 of 1 Washington Place

IDSEM-UG 1736  -  Units: 4  -  Class Number:  20478

Schedule: Mon & Wed 12:30-1:45  -  Location: 1 Washington Place, Room 527

Note: Fulfills Science, Premodern, and Global


The roots of the "Scientific Revolution" were formed in the Middle Ages - both in Christian and Muslim lands.  Science co-developed alongside monothesitic religions in this period of vibrant trade, scholarship, and intellectual development.  This course focuses on how the sciences examined the relationships between the human being, nature and the divine.  We will read original primary sources (in English) and use period tools and techniques to further our study. We will follow several of these sciences into the "Scientific Revolution" and discuss how they relate to the standard narrative of a revolution in science.  Scientific themes will include mathematics, music theory, astronomy/astrology, perspective/optics, alchemy/chemistry, atomism, medicine/physiology, and physics.  Readings may include Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Ptolemy, Galen, Plotinus, Boethius, Al-kindi, Alhazen, Avicenna, Ibn Tufayl, Averroes, Thomas Aquinas, Buridan, Oresme, Vesalius, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Leibniz.



Updated: 12/15/12 9:01 AM


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Class Policies and Procedures


Making a SciRev–Blog: This is where you should post your comments.


Additional Materials Page: Interesting things that expand on some of the topics in our readings.




Bookmark this syllabus page.  You will be returning her often.  [Always refresh this page... I update it often.]

PDFs are password protected.  Email me if you don't know what the password is.

Browser issues- For some reason Chrome sometimes has problems with the PDFs.  If this is the case, try another.  Also, let me know what, if any, problems you encounter so that I can deal with them.

Week 1

9/10 and 9/12

Due for Monday.


- Alter, Robert. The Five Books of Moses: a Translation with Commentary. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2004.  Read pp. ix and 9-28.  [Be sure to read the foot notes too.]  20pp


-Plato. The Republic of Plato. Translated with Introduction and Notes by Francis Macdonald Cornford. New York: Oxford University Press, 1945.  Read these selections from Plato's Republic: The Allegory of the Cave, Higher Education, and The Myth of Er.   pp. 227-259 and 348-359 [ca. 45pp]


Please send me a couple of paragraphs of comments on these readings by Sunday night.  If you have registered to the Comments Page  [Making a SciRev–Blog] you can simply comment there.  If you have not yet registered to the comments section, you can just send comments to my email address:

Here is a link to a few questions to consider for possible comments: Questions for Week 1, pt. 1.

Due for Wednesday.

- Email me.  Then I'll send you an invitation to join the Making a SciRev–Blog.  Then write up a paragraph or so on the Aristotle reading and put it into the Blog.



Read the following sections.

Book I, parts 1-4, 7, 14.

Book II, parts 1, 3, 5, 9,

Book III, parts 1, 2

Book IV, all of it.

Feel free to read the whole thing if you want.



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Week 2-

9/17 and 9/19

Due for Monday.  (Homework, comments, and such are due Sunday night.)


Grosseteste, Robert. On the Six Days of Creation: A Translation of the Hexa‘meron. Translation and Introduction by C. F. J. Martin.  Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

        Below is a link to a PDF of the front matter and the first few pages of text from this book.  Read over the Introduction.  Then I want you to carefully look over table of contents and choose at least 3 sections that look interesting to you.  Please send them to me in an email.  Be sure to identify part, chapter, page, and approximate title.  Feel free to add in any other thoughts you might have. I'd also like you to read pp. 47-53. 

Grosseteste_Hexaemeron-Front_Matter.pdf [3.9 MB]



-Galen. "The Construction of the Embryo."  Translated by P. N. Singer. In Selected Works, 176-201. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.  [26pp]  Read all of this PDF. 


-Ibn ufayl's story of ayy ibn Yaqān- We are going to read this in parts.  This English translation from a Latin translation done by E. Pococke, was done (supposedly) by George Keith (1638-1716), a radical Quaker. It was published in 1674.  By and large his translation is very close to modern English translations done from the original Arabic except that instead of the traditional deer or gazelle, he calls Hayy's mother a goat.  Be aware that the small letter "s" is a bit tricky in printed texts from this era.  The only time it looks like a modern "s" is when it occurs at the end of a word.  Otherwise it looks more like a cross between an "f" and an "l."  You'll get used to that pretty fast. 

Read pp. 16-28.

[Page numbers refer to the numbers on the pages, not PDF numbers.]

Ibn_Tufayl-KeithTrans-1674-online.pdf [6.4 MB]




-Please write up a couple paragraphs of comments or questions on the blog for Sunday night. Making a SciRev–Blog-W2a.


Due for Wednesday.

-I'd like you to do some illustrations for Galen and Ibn Tufayl.  Find a compelling section, preferable one that is confusing, and read it super carefully and then figure out a way to illustrate it. The point is to clarify a part of the text, not just decorate it.  So really think it through.  Try to make it understandable to a roommate who is not in the class.  You may have to invent a bit to get it to make sense. It doesn't matter how you do it–  Drawing, ink blot, photographs, magazine tears, comic book, claymation, remachined as a Transformers story or Dr. Seuss or South Park.  Then write a short description of what you did or what you were trying to do. Be self critical. 

   Please send me some sort of electronic version of what you did.... a jpeg or PDF or whatever you can make work.  You can give me a hard copy in class, but I'd like to have some sort of e-version by Tues. night.  Please try to keep whatever you send me under 10 MB.


-Read the following excerpt from Aristotle's Generation of Animals.  The main point is found on L3r. The rest can just be skimmed.


-Read this article from the NY Times from last Saturday.  Think about Galen as you read this. 



-Interesting development: Goodstein-Papyrus_Refers_to_Jesus__Wife-NYTimes.pdf


Week 3

9/24 and 9/26









For Monday: Please read the following and comment on the blog [MaSR-Blog-W3a].


-Plotinus' Six Enneads.  Plotinus (fl. 3rd c. AD), the founder of what would later be called Neoplatonism, synthesizes Plato and Aristotle, among other innovations.  His synthesis became a major influence on the three major monotheistic religions of the region (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).  In the Middle Ages much of his Six Enneads (largely from Tractates IV-VI] were thought to have been written by Aristotle.  They were referred to as the Theology of Aristotle.  As such, they had the added intellectual impact of having been supposedly written by the greatest philosopher of all time.  Their influence was immense. 

Plotinus-6 Enneads-Mackenna-MIT.pdf

Look at the bookmarks in the PDF to find the locations of the readings.

-Read the underlined section in III.8.10 (PDF page 265).  Feel free to read the whole section.

-Read all of V.2.1 (starts on PDF page 416).


-Ibn ufayl's story of ayy ibn Yaqān- Start at line 12 on p. 28, where the child gives his goat-mother food and read to the bottom of p. 64, where you are told that he is now 35-years old. -Ibn_Tufayl-KeithTrans-1674-online.pdf [6.4 MB]


For Wednesday...

-Read over these selections that you chose from Grosseteste's Hexa‘meron: Grosseteste-Hex-Excerpts.pdf [14.4 MB]

          [Sorry about the huge file and the poor quality.]

1.VIII.7 (p. 60) - Opposition of philosophers?

1.XXII (p. 81) - Number of bodies made?

2.I.1 (p. 84) - Let there be light?

5.I-IV (pp. 159-161) - Luminaries and firmament?

5.VII-XIII (pp. 164-176) - Astrology?

8.II (pp. 222-224) -Plural God?

8.VI (pp. 231-232) -Human and image of God?

8.XX (p. 250) - Possibility or necessity of breeding?

8.XXI (p. 251) - genitalia motion?

8.XXX (pp. 258-261) - 6 ages?

9.I (pp. 269-272) - Perfect 6?

9.X (pp. 287-291) - #7?

10.VI.2 (p. 307) - Creation of Woman?

11.II (p. 314) - 7 days in time?

11.IV (pp. 315-317) - Tree of Life?



-Read pp. 247-257 in Rocca, Julius. "Anatomy." In The Cambridge Companion to Galen, edited by R. J. Hankinson, 242-262. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.


You might find this interesting: Regenerating muscle tissue using extracellular matrix: Fountain-Human_Muscle_Regenerated_With_Animal_Help-NYTimes.pdf.

Week 4

10/1 and 10/3


:::Words: Works-Author-Editor-BUed:Ben-Zaken-Reading Hayy:raw image files:Mirror-thumb.jpg

-Read this excerpt on and by Alfarabi from Hyman and Walsh: pp. 211-221 [3.9 MB]. Hyman, Arthur, and James J. Walsh, eds. Philosophy in the Middle Ages; the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.  It is very complicated.  Try to figure out as much as you can.  This is speaking to a lot of what Ibn Tufayl is describing in our reading for this week. 


-Read Plotinus:  I.4.10 on mirrors. Plotinus-6 Enneads-Mackenna-MIT.pdf  [very short reading]


-Ibn Tufayl reading #3.  pp. 64-98. -Ibn_Tufayl-KeithTrans-1674-online.pdf [6.4 MB] 


-See also Mirror illustration from Ben-Zaken.


-Post comments on blog.  MaSR-Blog-W4a


-Follow-up on previous new story: Goodstein-VaticanSaysJesusWifeIsProbablyFake-NYTimes.pdf


For Wednesday. The following readings help with details and ramifications of the Ibn Tufayl reading that we did on Monday.  They also start to flesh out more specific issues dealing with practical medicine. 


-Read this 1-page extract from Marmura, Michael E. "Avicenna's "Flying Man" in Context." Monist 69, no. 3 (1986): 383-395. 


-Read pp. 155-158 and 173-176 from Aristotle. Aristotle, 'De anima' (On the soul). Translated by Hugh Lawson-Tancred. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986.  This starts to explain how vision and the other senses worked. 


-Read the following which are contained in this PDF: Avicenna_Canon-Constantine-Bernard.pdf [5.8 MB]

-Avicenna (d.1037), Canon, Book I, Fen 1, in Grant's Medieval Source Book, 715-21.  6pp

-Constantine the African (d.1087) on Spells, in Grant's Medieval Source Book, 767-69. 2pp

-Bernard of Gordon (d. 1308), on pharmacology, in Grant's Medieval Source Book, 789-91. 2pp


Week 5

No Class 10/8.

Class resumes on



First Paper.

No Class on Monday.

For Wednesday


-Ibn Tufayl reading #4- pp. 98-117  -Ibn_Tufayl-KeithTrans-1674-online.pdf [6.4 MB]- Read this first.


-From Barclay's An Apology for the True Christian Divinity (1701) [4 MB] [A defense of Quakerism] read the following selections:

-Read the synopsis of the 5th and 6th propositions on pp. 7-9.

-Read ¤-XXVII-XXVIII from Propositions "V. & VI." found on pp. 191-196.

-Feel free to read Propositions I and II if you want.

-Look into who Barclay was, his realtionship to George Keith, and what this book was.


-Read the following excerpts from Cotton Mather's The Christian Philosopher [7.9 MB. First published in 1721]:

-Look over the "Index" found on PDF-Page-2.

-Read the Introduction, pp. 5-10.

-Look over his description of light on pp. 12-20 and anything more you find interesting.  Some of you might enjoy reading his chapter "On Man" which is included in this PDF.  It discusses many of the things we've been discussing in class. 

-Who was Cotton Mather?  Maybe this will refresh your memory.


-Post your comments on these readings on the blog:


-The first paper due on Sunday, 10/14.  First Paper Specs.


Week 6

No Class 10/15

Class resumes on 10/17

- From Lucretius' De rerum natura, read Books I and 4:

-Lucretius-Dnr-Book_I-Latham.pdf [3.7 MB]

-Lucretius-DRN-4-SAC.pdf [4.8 MB]



- Read pp. 3-16 from "Of Eating of Flesh" from Plutarch's Morals, vol. V.  Plutarch-Morals-Flesh_and_Moon.pdf [2.7 MB]


- Post comments on the blog: Week 6 Blog .


Week 7

10/22 & 10/24


For Monday....

Critics of Atomism:


-Read: Aristotle: On Generation and Corruption, also known as On Coming-to-Be and Passing-Away: Read I.1 and I.2 (pp. 163-185... odd pages only).  Aristotle-On_Generation...Coming-to-Be & Passing-Away-excerpt.pdf [2.8 MB] [Note: Democritus and Leucippus are both atomists, as are Epicurus and Lucretius.]  11pp.


-Read: Plutarch: "Against Colotes the Epicurean (atomist)": Plutarch_s_Morals-5-AntiEpicurus.pdf [1.7 MB].  Read parts 8-10 (pp. 345-349).


Atomism, like a zombie, won't die....

-Read: Meinel: Meinel_Atomism17thC-1.8MB.pdf  35pp.  Meinel is very proud of his Latin skills and frequently includes long Latin passages whenever he starts to feel like you might have forgotten just how smart he is.  Fortunately he paraphrases everything he quotes, so you don't miss much without the translations.


-Post comments on the blog: Week 7-Monday-Blog.


For Wednesday....

-Galileo's early atomic tendencies: First read Koestler: pp. 466-471, The Comet-Sarsi Affair: Koestler-TheSleepwalkers-Grassi-Sarsi-excerpt.pdf [1.9 MB].  This describes the context in which Assayer was written.  Then from Galileo's Assayer read pp. 272-279 (the page numbers are in square brackets in the text.  [PDF pp. 42-49]: Galileo_ASSAYER.pdf.


Descartes, Rene. The World, or Treatise on Light. Translated by Michael S. Mahoney. Excerpts extracted for SciRev. ed.: Written 1629-33, published later in 17th c.  Read chapters 4 and 5 (On the Void and On the Number of Elements...)


-Fontenelle-On_the_Plurality_of_Worlds-1728-excerpt-sm180.pdf- Read pp. iii-x  and then look over the Table of Contents that follows.  Notice his ideas on women and religion.  Look this over in general.  Look at the picture at the beginning and imagine Descartes' swirling vortices of moving matter. 


-Section from Williams' book on Faraday... pp. 60 through the bottom of 62.  This short reading paraphrases some of the ideas in Kant's Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics  (1783).  Williams-Faraday-Ch2-KantExcerpt.pdf


-Boscovich's hybrid atomism, between Newton and Leibniz: Read selections from this PDF, which has a few passages from BoscovichÕs Philosophi¾ Naturalis Theoria (Theory of Natural Philosophy), usually just called, Theoria.  The first edition was printed in 1758 and the second (the one from which this translation was done) from 1763. A little background for this reading: Roger Boscovich, a Serbo-Croatian Jesuit priest who lived in Italy and France for most of his adult life, took up many of NewtonÕs resesarch ideas and questions, especially Querry/Question 31 from Opticks (read the first part of this).  He sort of combines Leibniz with Newton and comes up with a theory of cohesion and heat vibrations and something that superficially appears to be electron orbital levels and DeBroglie waves and Leonard-Jones potentials.  But this is reading way more into him than he could have ever dreamed, but at the same time you do have to wonder what got these guys going on such crazy, but fertile, ideas.  So far as I know, the church never got in his way.  He was the church.  Boscovich's theory was very influential on heavy-hitters such as Humphrey Davy, Michael Faraday, Samuel Coleridge, Joseph Priestley, and John Robison.  Boscovich_SynopsisAndfewPages-2.7MB.pdf

Read the following:

 ÒPart IÓ  on pp. 10-14 (PDF pages 4-5),

ÒPart IIIÓ on pp. 16-18 (PDF pages 7-8),

"Part I" on pp. 19-23, (PDF pages 8-10),

and p. 184 (PDF page 11).

Optional: read this section from "The Mind of God"- Boscovich_MindOfGod-1.5MB.pdf


Below is a link to a graph of the force/distance curve of Boscovich's atomic puncta.  Region "A" is standard Newtonian 1/r2 gravitational attraction.  The region to the left of region "A" is microscopically small.  Study this graph.  Look at each numbered location and imagine what a particle would feel there.  Then move a little to the left and a little to the right.  Imagine the physical consequences of this force curve.  Think about heat, light, quantum theory, atomic forces, etc. 



Week 8

10/29 & 10/31

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For Monday:

Recommended Audio: In Our Time -IOT_ Alchemy.mp3 - I highly recommend listening to this podcast. Here is the BBC description of this episode:


Read: Albertus Magnus (ca. 1193-1280). "A Description of Alchemical Operations, Procedures, and Materials (from Libellus de alchimia, ascribed to Albertus Magnus)." Translated by Sister Virginia Heines, S.C.N., In A Source Book in Medieval Science, edited by Edward Grant, 586-603. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.  AlbertusMagnus-AlchemicalOperations-GrantSourceBook.pdf. Read the Preface, and sections 2 and 3 (pp. 586-591).  Then read sections 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 20, and 35, found within pp. 591-602. Read all footnotes, especially n65 and n120.  Look over all the section titles and read around just to get a feel for the recipes and instructions.


Read: Newman, William, R. "Alchemy to "Chymistry"." In The Cambridge History of Science: Early Modern Science (1490-1730), edited by Katharine Park and Lorraine Daston, vol. 3, pp. 497-517. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Newman_FromAlchemyToChemCh21-4.5MB.pdf- Read the whole essay.


Biringuccio, Vannoccio. The Pirotechnia of Vannoccio Biringuccio. Translation and Notes by Cyril Stanley Smith and Martha Teach Gnudi.  New York: M.I.T. Press, 1966. Reprint, The American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, 1942.  Biringuccio_PirotechniaExcerptOnAlchemy-10.8MB.pdf. Read pp. 336-338 and pp. 409-416.


Aside: Roger Bacon is generally credited as being the first to write about gun powder in Latin, ca. 1267.  His reference refers to a fire cracker toy and merely states the three primary ingredients of black powder.  Claims that Bacon recorded a more specific recipe in the form of a cipher are not credible, none-the-less this rather fanciful idea lives on in many books to this day.


Also... read this one-page thing by Newton: Newton-Alchemy-Maxwell-Stuart.pdf [2.3 MB]


-Post comments on the blog: Week 8a- Monday Blog on Alchemy


For Wednesday: I realize that this is weird week.  Just pretend that it is normal and we will meet when we meet.


Read pp. 32-57 [pdf pages 6-18] from Stephens, Walter. Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex, and the Crisis of Belief. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.– Stephens-Demon_Lovers-Malleus-PeneTheft.pdf [3.9 MB]  I am very sorry for the horrible resolution of this PDF.  The chapter on the Maleus Maleficarum is a very good overview and would be a good place to start an investigation on this book. Optionally look at a section that tells a story of witches who steal male members that follows this chapter in this PDF. [If you read the male organ stealing section, also read this Reuters-Congo-PenisStealingWitchesLynched-2008 and this, link]


Read this court document from 1472 about a witch named Giovanna (a.k.a. Caterina).  Be aware that another person frequently mentioned in this text is a fellow named Giovanni.  The names are slightly confusing if you donÕt pay close attention.  WitchCondemnation1472Florence-332KB.pdf


Read pp. 13-21 (optionally start from p. 7) from Connor, James A. Kepler's witch: an astronomer's discovery of cosmic order amid religious war, political intrigue, and the heresy trial of his mother. San Francisco: Harper, 2004. – Connor_KeplersWitchCh1-2.7MB.pdf


Post comments to this material and the alchemical material on the link I put up for Monday: Week 8a- Monday Blog on Alchemy


Optional: Kramer, and Sprenger. Malleus Malifacarum. written 1476, published 1487.  This needs some more citation information.  Kramer-Sprenger-Malleus_maleficarum.pdf  [This PDF is not all that easy to navigate.] This is the classic witch-hunting manual.  Find 20 or so pages of interest and read them.  This is also available online in html format here:, however this site is a bit wonky.  Go to the "Contents" located in the center column and go to the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd part index and from there choose an interesting "question."  The questions in the 2nd and 3rd parts appear to be the most interesting for an introduction to witch hunting.


Optional: Read Cotton Mather's description of witch identification, "An Abstract of Mr. PerkinÕs Way for the Discovery of Witches." From The Wonders of the Invisible World.  Contact me for a PDF.


Week 9

11/5 & 11/7


:::CAL Article:Conference files:PowerPoint image collection:Ifra-algoristic numbersA-sm.jpg

The Quadrivium- Arithmetic and Music Theory


For Monday: 


Note: Euclid's Elements, Book VII,

   Def. 1: An unit [unity] is that by virtue of which each of the things that exist is called one. 

   Def. 2: A number is a multitude composed of units.  See this PDF for more from Book VII, if you are interested.


Read pp. 69-77 from.... Boethius. Boethian Number Theory: a Translation of the De institutione arithmetica [ca. 6th C. A.D.]. Edited, translated, with introduction and notes by Michael Masi. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1983.  Boethius-D.i.arith-selections-9.3MB.pdf.  Look over the chapter titles at the beginning of Books I and II.  Also look over the rest of PDF to get a feel for the other topics Boethius covers. 6pp


Read pp. 67-71 from Muhammad ibn Mus‡ Al-Khowarizmi's book that was the origin of algebra. Al-Khowarizmi (ca. 780-ca. 850) Robert of Chester, and Louis Charles Karpinski. Robert of Chester's Latin Translation of the Algebra of al-Khowarizmi.  University of Michigan Studies. Humanistic Series. New York: Macmillan, 1915.  Al-Khowarizmi's_Algebra-ChesterTrans-extract.pdf [1 MB] 3pp.


Read pp. 94-96 in Sacrobosco, Johannes de. "Arabic Numerals and Arithmetic Operations from Sacrobosco's Algorism." In A Source Book in Medieval Science, edited by Edward Grant, 94-101. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974. Sacrobosco-GrantSourceBook-Algorism-1.6MB.pdf. 3pp


Read this: Burnett, Charles. "The Semantics of Indian Numerals in Arabic, Greek and Latin." Journal of Indian Philosophy 34, no. 1-2 (2006): 15-30.  Burnett-SemanticsIndianNumeralsInArabic-564KB.pdf. 15pp


Comment on the blog:  Blog for Monday, Week 9.



For Wednesday...

Skim over this part of a chapter on arithmetic, music, and the quadrivium in general: Newsome-QuadPur-ArithMusic.pdf [1 MB]


Read about numbers in Martianus Capella, pp. 273-287 on arithmology. Capella-Arithmetic-sm.pdf [4 MB] From Capella, Martianus. Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts: The Marriage of Philology and Mercury [De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii]. Translated by William Harris Stahl and Richard Johnson with E. L. Burge. Vol. 2. 2 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977. 14pp.


Read this section from Boethius' De institutione musica [Fundamentals of Music]. Read sections I.1-I.11 found on pp. 1-19. Boethius-Dim-I.1-I.19.pdf [5.8 MB]. 19pp.


Comment on the Blog for Monday, part 2, Week 9.  Feel free to look into some of these authors and the contexts in which they lived and add that to your comments. 


Here are a couple of music websites that might help you with the readings.

Here is a virtual piano:

Virtual Monochord:

Week 10

11/12 & 11/14


2nd paper due on Friday the 16th.

For Monday.... music, geometry and musical cosmos  [Be aware that the 2nd paper is due on Friday.  See below.]


-Read sections 810-811 on p. 317 and then sections 909-910 on pp. 352-353 from Martianus Capella's De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii. [4.1 MB]  Capella, Martianus. Martianus Capella and the Seven Liberal Arts: The Marriage of Philology and Mercury [De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii]. Translated by William Harris Stahl and Richard Johnson with E. L. Burge. Vol. 2. 2 vols. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977. 2pp.  Feel free to read the whole section on astronomy, but I just wanted you to read the description of the personifications of Astronomy and Harmony.  The imagery is pretty trippy.  Feel free to draw up these characters and submit them as commentary to me directly or to the blog. 


-Read these extractions from Sacrobosco's Sphere: Sacrobosco-Sphere-Grant-Source.pdf [2 MB].  I put some modern diagrams at the end of this reading.  Learn your medieval astronomy here.  This is how most all medieval students learned it. 10pp


-Read pp. 17-25 from this PDF: Newsome-Quadrivium-8.1.09-4.3MB.pdf.  Pay particular attention to the discussion of figures 7 and 8.  8pp


-Read pp. 185-200 from Macrobius' Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. Macrobius-Book_I.1-4.pdf [3.5 MB]  15pp. Note to self..Add some contextual comments here...Cicero, dates, etc.


-Recommended readings on Ptolemy:

-Ptolemy_s_HarmonicAstronomy_Overview.pdf [1.2 MB]- At the very least, look over this PDF and study the diagrams.  This brief extract from a larger paper on Kepler describes the harmonic cosmos proposed by Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD.

-Newsome-QuadrivialPursuits-Ptolemy.pdf- This PDF is a bit more philosophical and has some great quotes from Ptolemy and Plato on music and astronomy and beyond.  At the very least, skim through this and read the block-quotes. 


Post on Blog: Week 10, part A.



For Wednesday... Harmonics into astronomy and into astrology.  Harmonastr-onomy-ology.


Read this excerpt by Hunayn (fl. 9th century) on  pp. 91-98 and the section by Al-Hasan al-Katib (fl. ca. 1000) on pp. 119-122 in Godwin, Joscelyn, ed. The Harmony of the Spheres: a Sourcebook of the Pythagorean Tradition in Music. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International, 1993.  Godwin-ed-Medieval-HarmonySpheres-excerpts-Sourcebook.pdf [10.9 MB]


From Ptolemy. Tetrabiblos. Translated by F. E. Robbins. The Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980, Ptolemy-Tetrabiblos-Excerpts-Loebsm.pdf [13.4 MB], please read the following:   

Sections I.1-1.6, pp. 1-41. [In Sections 1.1-1.6, Not all of these pages and sections are in the PDF.  You only need to read what is provided.]

Section I.13, pp. 72-75.

Section II.4, pp. 160-163

Section III.1, pp. 220-229


From Lemay, Richard Joseph. Abu Ma'shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century: The Recovery of Aristotle's Natural Philosophy through Arabic Astrology. Beirut: American University of Beirut, 1962.  Lemay-Aristo-Abu-Mashar.pdf [15.9 MB]

-Read this section on Abu Ma'shar (d. 886), the author of Introductorium in astronomiam, one of the main sources of astrological philosophy in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.  Abu Ma'shar is quoted in Latin astronomical texts very frequently.  I apologize for the terrible PDF.  Read pp. 48-55, 85-86, 113-118 or more if you like this section, and 127-131.

-Read this short section, pp. 152-157, on Raymond of Marseilles (fl. 1140s).  He was very familair with Abu Ma'shar's book Introductorium in astronomiam, one of the main sources of astrological philosophy. 

Lemay's references to Hermann, John, et al., generally concern issues having to do with the various Latin translations of Abu Ma'shar's book in the Middle Ages.  20pp


For Friday the 16th (Chloe's birthday)... please turn in your paper on an alchemy or witch-related issue.  Here is a description of the paper assigment: 2nd_Paper_Specs.htm.


Of peripheral interest: Space-Time Photography

Week 11

11/19 & 11/21


For Monday...

Send me your birthday information [exact time and place] asap if you want, possibly, to have your natal horoscope done. 


Read pp. 3-29 from Walker, D. P. Spiritual and Demonic Magic: from Ficino to Campanella. University Park, PA: Warburg Institute, University of London, 1958. Reprint, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000. Ficino's astrological harmonics.  Walker-SDM-FicinoMusic-SAC.pdf [5.1 MB]


Read Cardano's Horoscope of Christ.  Cardano-Christ_Horoscopesm.pdf [7.3 MB]- Read pp. 69-76.  This is simply the horoscope.  From Shumaker, Wayne. Renaissance Curiosa: John Dee's Conversations with Angels, Girolamo Cardano's Horoscope of Christ, Johannes Trithemius and Cryptography, George Dalgarno's Universal Language. Binghamton, NY: Center for Medieval & Early Renaissance Studies, 1982.

...Also read pp. 5-8, 18-25, Optional-91-104 from this PDF:  Cardano-Book_of_My_Life-excerpt-PSR12.pdf [9 MB] From Cardano, Girolamo, and Anthony Grafton. The Book of My Life  (De vita propria liber). Tranlated from the Latin by Jean Stoner. New York: New York Review Books, 2002 [written in the 1570s].  This is some of the more interesting biographical material out there.  Cardano was a physician, astrologer, gambler, and a mathematician, among other talents. 


Read pp. 66-70, then read #5 (Ficino on pp. 71-73), #7 (Calvin on pp. 74-75), #9 (Pico della Mirandola on pp. 76-77), #12 (Pithoys on pp. 79-80), #s 15-18 (Cardano and Tycho on pp. 82-85), #s 19-20 (Cardano on pp. 86-88. You should have already read #20 in an assignment above.) #s 25-30 (Ficino, Agrippa, Campanella, Melanchthon, Erasmus, and Bodin on pp. 90-95), and read the whole section on astrological medicine on pp. 95-104. Maxwell-Stuart-ed-Occult_in_Early_Mod_Europe-Astrology.pdf [12.8 MB].  From Maxwell-Stuart, P. G. The Occult in Early Modern Europe: A Documentary History.  Documents in History Series: St. Martin's Press, 1999.  All these short readings are hard to keep straight.  You should probably take notes and then reorganize them according to themes like Protestant, ProAstrology, AntiAstrology, Astronomer, Physician... etc.  Just a suggestion.


Please Post on the Blog by Sunday night (or early Monday morning): Week 11a-Monday-Blog-Astrology


Monday, 11/19.  Guest speaker.  Mary Adams.


For Wednesday.  [I realize few (if any) of you will be here on Wednesday, but I still want you to pretend that you are in class.]


-Read pp. 488-494, an excerpt from Oresme's Livre de Divinacions [14th c.]: Oresme-ContraAstrology-GrantSourcebook.pdf.


-Post some comments on the Blog: Week 11b-Wednesday-Blog-Oresme, et al.


Of peripheral interest: The Entomological Society of America has video contest.  The links to this year and previous years are at the bottom of this page.


Week 12

11/26 & 11/28

Optics and Perspective

For Monday:

-The following reading is from two different commentaries on Aristotle's De anima.  If you recall, we read the Aristotle several weeks ago. One is by Averro‘s (a.k.a. Ibn Rushd, Iberian Peninsula, 1126-1198) and the other by Thomas Aquinas (ca.1224-1274, Italy and Paris).  In both translations the sections in bold are quoting Aristotle and the rest is the commentary.  In order to keep this reading assignment shortish, I have split up the commentary across the two authors. Please read the following:

Averro‘s on parts of De anima II.6-II.7 found in Sections 63-76 on pp. 175-191, [The meaning of this reading comes into focus starting on p. 180 or so.  Suffer through the first few pages, for they foreshadow issues that Locke later highlights in his Essay (ca. 1690).]

     Averroes-LongCommentary-DeAnima-NYUG.pdf [5 MB]

           and then

Thomas on parts of De anima II.11-II.12 found in Chapter 24, pp. 281-287,

     Aquinas-Commentary-De_anima-excerptNYU.pdf [2.1 MB].


Read Alhazen, Bacon, and Witelo on the Propagation of Light, etc., Grant's Medieval Source Book, 392-94, 400-07.  Alhazen_Bacon_Witelo_on_the_Propogation_of_Light-NYUG.pdf [2 MB]


Read Ch. 4 (pp. 58-86) in Lindberg, David C. Theories of Vision from al-Kindi to Kepler. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.  Lindberg-EarlyAndAlhazen.pdf [4 MB]


-Post some thoughts on the blog: Week 12a-Monday Blog.


For Wednesday.


Roger Bacon, The Relation of Mathematics, Light and Experimentation to Theology, Opus Maius, tr. R.Burke (Philadelphia, 1928, Reprint, Thoemmes Press, 2000).  Read the following: pp. 131-134 (from Vol. 1) and pp. 576-82 (from Vol. 2).  These two excerpts are both included in this PDF: Bacon_Opus_Maius-opticalExcerpts.pdf [1.3 MB] ca. 10pp.


Read this: Prosdocimo-CameraObscura.pdf. 1p. See also this:  Or this: link.  Or this collection pulled from the web: Eclipses-throughTrees.pdf.


Read this short description of Leon Battista Alberti's De pictura (ca. 1435): Newsome-OnAlberti-DePictura.pdf.  ca. 5pp.  I wanted to assign the actual book, but the readings were getting too lengthy.  It is a highly readable book.


Leonardo, Notebooks, ed. Jean Paul Richter, vol. 1.  Read sections 57-61 (pp. 36-38), 65-72 (pp. 40-45), 78-79 (pp. 47-48), 82 (pp. 52-53), 92 (pp. 56-57), 99-100 (pp. 59-60).  ca. 7pp  Leonardo_Notebooks-excerpts-Posted-NYU.pdf [3.1 MB]  Keep in mind that these are Leonardo's notebooks.  He is trying out ideas.  The drawings don't always synch up with what he is writing.  I've added some images to assist in a few of the discussions. 


Read Ch. 9 (pp. 178-208) in Lindberg, David C. Theories of Vision from al-Kindi to Kepler. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976. Lindberg-Ch9-Kepler120dpi.pdf [3.6 MB].  Be prepared to talk about the retinal image, apertures, and image reversals. 


-Please post your thoughts/comments on the blog: Week 12b-Wednesday Blog.


Of related interest: camera-obscura-by-abelardo-morell.html

See also here.


Week 13

12/3 & 12/5

For Monday.


-Read the following excerpts from Alberti's On the Art of Building.  Alberti-DeRe-Excerpts-Rykwert-English.pdf [11.2 MB].  Please read pp. 2-21, and pp. 298-309, and pp. 315-319.


-Alberti's Della/De/On pittura/pictura/Painting: Alberti_On_Painting-forClass.pdf [1 MB].  Look this over and get a good idea of how Albertian perspective works.  The short description from last week might also help.  Read this whole excerpt if you want.


-Drawing and Analysis homework assignment: Described Here.


Blog Link for Monday: 13a: Week 13a: Monday Blog


Of interest (optional): Alchemy's Philosopher's Stone?: Rich-JellyfishImmortality.pdf.


(optional) I noticed several students wrote on misogyny and witchcraft. It is hard to get any sort of understanding of how the past might have worked, especially in terms of social customs and perceived morality.  Sometimes a modern story about similar behavior can help: Rubin-AfghanMoralCode-2012.pdf.  ...or it can just make you mad.


For Wednesday.  More on perspective and a some information on the medieval university.


Please work on your drawings if you want to perfect them.  We'll get to them on Wednesday's class.


-Read this short Wiki-essay on George Sarton, the so-called father of the History of Science. 1pp


     -Now read Sarton's short review of Drower's The Book of the Zodiac from 1950, found on p. 374: Sarton-Siegel-76thCriticalBibliography1950.pdf [4.6 MB].  1pp


            -Now read Neugebauer's 1951 review of Sarton's review: Neugebauer_StudyOfWretched.pdf.  1pp



-Read this excerpt (pp. 33-53) from Grant, Edward. The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.  Grant_FoundationsMedievalUniversity-2.8MB.pdf  20pp


-Read these short sections from Thorndike, Lynn. University Records and Life in the Middle Ages. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1944. Reprint, Columbia University Press, 1975.  Thorndike-UniversityRecords-Extracts.pdf [1.3 MB] 10pp


-No blog for Wednesday, but I'd like you to have thought about medieval university education and your own experiences in education.  How different, how similar?  NYU's relationship to NYC... the student body vs. townies.... who's in charge of the university?.... the curriculum... the internal legal structure.... the political power of the university.  Also, reflect on Neugebauer's defense of wretched subjects.  Have we moved beyond Sarton? 


-I wanted to give a reading on Islamic madrasas and the schools in mosques of the Middle Ages, but I couldn't find a very good reading that was short and to the point.  We'll discuss it in class.  I'll post some material on the additional materials page for anyone interested.


Week 14

12/10 & 12/12

Special Topics: Loose Ends


From Monday...

-Read pp. 94-96 from Varro's De rerum rusticarum - I.12 (written 1st c. BC) - [On Agriculture.... mentioned by Alberti in last week's reading.  Notice how much Alberti lifted from Varro.]  Varro-On_Ag-animaculae.pdf 2pp


-Read: Makdisi, George. "Madrasa and University in the Middle Ages." Studia Islamica, no. 32 (1970): 255-264. Makdisi-MadrasaAndUniversityMiddleAges.pdf


-Read pp. 1-2, and 17-29 in J. Pedersen and G. Makdisi. "Madrasa: I. The Institution in the Arabic, Persian and Turkish Lands." Encyclopedia of Islam. Leiden: Brill, 2012. Credo Reference. 25 June 2012. Web. 7 Dec. 2012.  Pedersen-Makdisi-Madrasa-EncyclopediaOfIslam.pdf.  Feel free to read more of this if you want. 


-Optional: In Our Time: Anatomy - 2000 years of anatomical study.mp3 [11.2 MB]  The background on Harvey is quite interesting.


-Please comment on the Blog Link for Monday: 14a:


-Optional BONUS BLOG: Please produce a back and forth on this blog page.  I'll give a few extra credit points for your participation in this.



For Wed... The Heart finally comes full circle....


-Read: Ibn An-Nafis, and Max Meyerhof. "Ibn An-Nafis (XIIIth Cent.) and His Theory of the Lesser Circulation." Isis 23, no. 1 (1935): 100-120. Ibn_al-Nafis_Meyerhof-locked.pdf 20pp


-Read: pp. 195-208 from Servetus, Michael, and Charles Donald O'Malley. Michael Servetus, a Translation of His Geographical, Medical, and Astrological writings. Philadelphia,: American Philosophical Society, 1953.  Servetus-LesserCirculation-class.pdf [2 MB] 11pp


-Read all the red text and all of Chapters 8, 9, and 13 from Harvey, William. "On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals (De motu cordis)."  Translated by Robert Willis. In Scientific papers; physiology, medicine, surgery, geology, with introductions, notes and illustrations, 91 pp. New York: P. F. Collier & son, Internet Edition from Modern History Sourcebook, Fordham University, 1901, 1st Latin ed. from 1628.  Harvey_DeMotuCordis-1.7MB.pdf 12pp


-Optional BONUS BLOG.  Read each other and respond.  I'll monitor this until Friday.


-Optional: Barry-DiviningTheWeather-Gruber_sAlmanack.pdf- This used to be astrology.



Final Paper.


Dec. 21.

-Final paper specifications.

  There will be no extensions, since grades are due soon thereafter.



:::AV:Photos:Pax Folder:LittleGuya.jpg

My Dog Pax says, "Yappy Yolidays!"


Historical thought concerning the annual

War on X-Men.... I mean, X-MAS.


Thanks a lot for making this class loads of fun.

You all are great.





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