This talk explores the importance of the medieval period and nineteenth-century medievalism to the invention of modern science by placing the work of thirteenth-century Franciscan, polymath, and scholastic natural philosopher Roger Bacon (ca. 1214-1292) into conversation with later scholars, especially William Whewell (1794-1866). Elly Truitt argues that Bacon’s work and reputation became central to a narrative about the development of science that insisted on Europe as the only possible place of origin. Furthermore, Truitt argues that this narrative was constructed, in part, by ignoring large parts of Bacon’s corpus and erasing his deep engagement with medieval scholars working in the Arabic tradition, and by relying instead on a narrative structure that emerged in the context of late antique and medieval Christianity.
Elly Truitt, Associate Professor of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania
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