What is a Volcano? A Medieval Answer

Mount Etna eruption - photo by Alessandro Rossi / Flickr

Volcanoes have long fascinated people. They have know how dangerous they can be, but throughout history many have tried to figure what causes them. Here is the explanation given by the medieval scholar Albert the Great.

Science and Nature in the Medieval Ecological Imagination

God as Geometer, The Frontispiece of Bible Moralisee

This dissertation explores the intersections between nature and culture in medieval literature and art with particular focus on Geoffrey Chaucer’s House of Fame, the thirteenth-century French Bible Moralisée, and William Langland’s Piers Plowman.

BOOK REVIEW: Medieval Medicine: Its Mysteries and Science by Toni Mount

Medieval Medicine by Toni Mount

Our review of Toni Mount’s fascinating look at medicine in the Middle Ages in – Medieval Medicine: Its Mysteries and Science by Toni Mount.

The Dead in 3D: The Rothwell Charnel Chapel Project Online!

Rothwell Charnel Chapel skulls. (Photo by

In the past seven months, the Rothwell Charnel Chapel Project has evolved to become more than just a research and preservation project, but has morphed into a virtual exhibit, and fascinating online learning resource that will be available globally.

Science and Religion in the Middle Ages

Science and Religion in the Middle Ages

Why did science and natural philosophy suffer such disparate fates in the two great civilizations of Christendom and Islam?

Chinese translation of De re metallica discovered

Kunyu gezhi (1640): End of the table of contents, with seals and a note added by later reader Photo: Dr. Cao Jin, by courtesy of Nanjing Library

Scholars from the University of Tübingen have discovered a 17th century Chinese translation of large parts of De re metallica or On the Nature of Metals, a mining handbook written by Georgius Agricola in 1556.

Maria the Prophetess: Mother of Alchemy

Engraving depicting Maria Prophetissima from Michael Maier's book Symbola Aurea Mensae Duodecim Nationum (1617).

One of the first female scientists, Maria, the Jewess also referred to as Maria the Prophetissa and Maria, Sister of Moses, whose inventions and designs of equipment are used in laboratories today.

Medieval Studies and STEM

Medieval Studies and STEM

Here are 15 ways that medieval studies and STEM are working together.

Caterina Sforza’s Experiments with Alchemy

Caterina Sforza

She collected over four hundred alchemical, medicinal, and cosmetic recipes, and corresponded with other alchemical adepts about materials and laboratory techniques.

Ibn Al-Haytham’s Contributions to Optics and Renaissance Art

Charles Falco

I am going to talk about the science of optics, the history of western art, and the influence of Ibn Al-Haytham.

The Astrolabe: Medieval Multi-Tool of Navigation

Chaucer's Astrolable - photo by Viewminder / Flikr

They were the Swiss Army knife of medieval travelers.

Places to See: The King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester

Standing over the spot Richard III was discovered at the King Richard III Visitor's Centre in Leicester. Photo by

Now that Richard III has been laid to rest, and his tomb is open to the public for viewing, what more is there left to see when you’re in Leicester? Plenty.

Saltpetre in medieval gunpowder: Calcium or Potassium Nitrate?

medieval cannon

Until recently, it has been accepted that the formulation of gunpowder has always been based on variable mixtures of charcoal, sulphur and potassium nitrate. This has recently been challenged.

A Portal to the Universe: The Astrolabe as a Site of Exchange in Medieval and Early Modern Knowledge

medeval astrolabe

This essay analyzes the astrolabe and its ability to transfer ideas and culture across traditional geographic boundaries, from the perspective of Europe in the Medieval and Early Modern eras.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Study of Light and Optics: A Synthesis of Fields in The Last Supper

Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci’s preoccupation with the natural world led him to the fields of optics and astronomy.

Assessment of early-modern observations of comets and supernovae: Focus on pre-telescopic European astrometric and physical data

comet - from The Book of Miracles (Augsburg, 16th century)

It will be worth while in this investigation to inquire whether comets have the same nature as the planets and stars … A comet seems to have certain things in common with them: rising and setting, the same appearance, although a comet is scattered and extends farther. It is also fiery and bright. And so, if all planets are earthy bodies, comets will also have the same condition. ~ Seneca

High-Tech Feudalism: Warrior Culture and Science Fiction TV

Richard III with Aliens? Perhaps...Star Trek the Next Generation, Lieutenant Worf and Captain Picard in the episode, "Sins of the Father"

“Richard ΠΙ with aliens” is how Cornell (102) describes “Sins of the Father,” an episode of Star Trek: TheNext Generation (hereafter TNG) in which the Klingon warrior Worf, son of Mogh, seeks to restore his family’s honour by exposing and challenging those responsible for falsely accusing his dead father of treason to the Klingon Empire.

Remediating Viking Origins: Genetic Code as Archival Memory of the Remote Past


In this article we explore how the remote past is made relevant in the present for participants in a study of population genetics in the UK.

Ten Medieval Inventions that Changed the World

Medieval Inventions that Changed the World

Ten Inventions from the Middle Ages that have had lasting importance, even to the present-day.

From Sin to Science: Astrological Explanations for the Black Death, 1347-1350

15th century image of Death - Majorana, Cristoforo (fl. ca. 1480-1494). Image from New York Public Library

Few survivors of the plague’s horrors could have remained indifferent to debates over its ultimate cause. The frequent evocation of astrology in these debates helped to increase the circulation of astrological ideas in the later fourteenth century, and contributed to the wider vogue they enjoyed during the early modern period

A New Set of Fourteenth Century Planetary Observations

Illustration of an excerpt of Pliny's Natural History on the positions and movements of seven planets, with earth in the centre, and around it the moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn

The Astronomy of Levi ben Gerson (d.1344) is unusual for recording 45 observations he made of planetary longitudes and latitudes that are presented here for the first time.

An Introduction to the Mechanical Arts in the Middle Ages

Medieval Mechanical Arts

A brief overview of where these “mechanical arts” fit into the scholastic world. The thesis of the “Dark Ages” often suggests that there was a discontinuity in knowledge between Antiquity and the Renaissance, and perhaps nowhere so obviously as in the mechanical arts. This is certainly false…

Wax or wane? Insect perspectives on human environmental interactions

Rhyncolus ater - insects

The sites discussed in this paper include a range of sites investigated on national road schemes and other development projects across Ireland, covering a long time-span from the Neolithic period through to the medieval period.

Apocalyptic Calculators of the Later Middle Ages

medieval astrology

The purpose of my talk today is to explore why and how astrology became an accepted tool for apocalyptic calculation in the later Middle Ages.

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