SCIENCE IN WESTERN CHRISTENDOM UNTIL THE 12TH CENTURY RENAISSANCE
'Our play leaps o'er the vaunt and firstlings
of these broils
Beginning in the middle'
( Troilus and Cressida)
THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE scientific ideas of the Dark Ages and the early Middle Ages, that is from about the 5th to the early 12th century, and those of the later Middle Ages, can best be seen in a conversation which is supposed to have taken place between the widely travelled 12th-century scholar and cleric Adelard of Bath and his stay-at-home nephew. Adelard's contribution to the discussion introduces the newly-recovered ideas of the ancient Greeks and the Arabs; that of his nephew represents the traditional view of Greek ideas as they had been preserved in Western Christendom since the fall of the Roman Empire.
The conversation is recorded in Adelard Qæstiones Naturales, written, probably, after he had studied some Arabic science but before he had achieved the familiarity with it which is shown in his later translations, such as those of the Arabic text of Euclid Elements and the astronomical tables of al-Khwarizmi. The topics covered range from meteorology to the transmission of light and sound, from the growth of plants to the cause of the tears which the nephew shed for joy at the safe return of his uncle.
When not long ago, while Henry, son of William [ Henry I, 1100- 35], was on the throne, I returned to England after my long period of study abroad, it was very agreeable to meet my friends again. After we had met and made the usual enquiries about one