Studies in the History of Mediaeval Science

By Charles Homer Haskins | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
ADELARD OF BATH

ADELARD of Bath, the pioneer student of Arabic science and philosophy in the twelfth century, and "the greatest name in English science before Robert Grossetete and Roger Bacon,"1 still remains in many ways a dim and shadowy figure in the history of European learning. The older writers upon literary history give lists of works attributed to him, but they tell us nothing of his life beyond the fact that he lived under Henry I and travelled in various distant lands;2 and while more recent studies have made clearer his place in the history of mediaeval philosophy,3 his work as a whole has yet to be examined, and many fundamental facts in his biography still elude us.4 Except for a bare mention in the Pipe Roll of 1130 Adelard is known only from his own writings, which consist in part of translations and in part of independent treatises, and a list of these is the necessary point of departure for any further study.

1. De eodem et diverso. Edited, with commentary, from the unique MS., B. N., Lat. 2389, by Willner, in Beiträge, iv, no. 1.5 Besides the evidence of the dedicatory letter and the title, Adelard's authorship is established by the following passage in his Astrolabe:

____________________
1
Wright, Biographia Britannica literaria ( London, 1846), ii94.
2
Tanner, Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica ( London, 1748), p. 55, reproduces Leland's account, with notes drawn from Bale, Pits, Oudin, and his own reading.
3
Jourdain, pp. 97-99, 258-277, 452 ff.; Hauréau, Histoire de la pkilosophie scolastique, i. 348-361; Willner, Des Adelard von Balk Traktal De eodem et diverso, in Beitrége, iv, no. 1 ( Miinster, 1903); De Wulf, Histoire de la philosophie médievale ( Louvain, 1912), pp. 217-219; Ueberweg-Baumgartner, Grundriss10 ( Berlin, 1915), ii. 310-317.
4
The best of the earlier accounts is that of Wright ( ii. 94-101), supplemented by Boncompagni in Bullettino, xiv. 1-90 ( 1881). I took up the problem first in 1911, with results here revised and supplemented ( E. H. R., xxvi. 491-498; xxviii. 515 f.; xxxvii. 398 f.). Thorndike has a good but by no means a final chapter (ii, ch. 36). The notice in the Dictionary of National Biography is superficial; that of Dom Berlière in Baudrillart's Dictionnaire, i. 522 f., is useful.
5
Extracts in Jourdain, pp. 260-273, 452-454.

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