A 13th century British bishop’s theories of the origin and structure of the universe were centuries ahead of their time, says a group of scholars. According to TheConversation.com, Durham University’s Ordered Universe project has found that Robert Grosseteste, the Bishop of Lincoln from 1245 until his death in 1253, anticipated the ideas of Sir Isaac Newton and other scientists by centuries.
Grosseteste was a philosopher, church reformer, poet, theologian and politician.
“Nearly 800 years later the example of Grosseteste’s works provides the basis for doing great interdisciplinary work, offering unexpected challenges to both modern scientists and humanities experts alike, especially in working closely together,” wrote the group of scholars who are attempting a modern revision of the 1912 publication of Grosseteste’s work.
One of the more startling finds among the Medieval thinker’s papers and notes is his work “De Luce” or “Concerning Light.” In it, Grosseteste made one of the first known attempts to apply a set of physical laws to the universe as a whole, transferring what he knew of light and matter to apply to worlds beyond our own.
Grosseteste formulated a theory of the universe’s beginning as a single point of light fused with matter, which expanded outward to its furthest extension, which he called the first sphere. A second type of light radiates inward, Grosseteste said, compressing matter until it will go no further, thereby establishing the second sphere.
The scientist reasoned that these nested spheres form our universe, a theory that is surprisingly in line with modern physicists’ contention that it is possible for multiple universes to exist simultaneously.
The team noted that Grosseteste’s mathematical calculations were “very consistent and precise,” and had he had access to a computer, they theorized, he would have arrived at the assumption of multiple universes all on his own.
“As well as inspiring the surprising new science, all of these investigations sharpen our knowledge of this thinker and his texts by urging a closer, ‘functional’ reading of the text,” wrote the team.
They concluded, “Each step is also deepening and widening our historical appreciation of Grosseteste and his creative, disciplined and vivid intellectual imagination.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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