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Robert Grosseteste

(c. 1170—1253) scientist, theologian, and bishop of Lincoln


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(c.1168–1253)

English medieval philosopher. Born in Suffolk, Grosseteste gained a reputation in medicine, and after study in Paris became perhaps the first Chancellor of the university of Oxford. He taught the Franciscans in Oxford, and became Bishop of Lincoln in 1235. He represented an Augustinian tradition, filtered through Avicenna and Anselm, in contrast to the prevailing Aristotelian influence in the schools of Paris. Grosseteste had scientific interests; he was particularly concerned with the nature of light, which he thought had to be studied by essentially mathematical methods. In the Platonic tradition, he thought that the nature or form of body is itself light, since it is light alone that diffuses itself instantaneously in every direction, and is therefore capable of filling space. Between 1215 and 1235 he composed various works on the subject including De Luce (‘On Light’). Grosseteste was one of the first western thinkers to realize that, in the pursuit of science, unaided observation and memory must be supplemented by care in isolating relevant factors. His scientific interests were especially influential on Roger Bacon. He also wrote on Aristotle's ethics, and translated works by Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, and John Damascene.

Subjects: Arts and Humanities.


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