The Migrations of Islamic Science in Renaissance Europe

Robert Morrison

Bowdoin College

The Renaissance is often seen as the result of Europeans’ re-engagement with the heritage of Classical Antiquity, which Islamic societies preserved during the Dark Ages.  Recent research has shown, though, that the science of Islamic societies from the twelfth through sixteenth centuries was crucial for Renaissance science. This lecture will describe this late medieval Islamic scientific culture and the fascinating stories of how it reached Renaissance Europe, often as a by-product of economic activity and as a result of a quest for social capital.  In fact, European scholars in the later sixteenth century and the seventeenth century continued to value the science of Islamic societies, even after European science had blossomed. Renaissance science turns out to have more diverse foundations than previously thought.
Robert Morrison is George Lincoln Skolfield, Jr. Professor of Religion at Bowdoin College. A specialist in the science of Islamic societies, his courses lie in the academic study of both Islam and Judaism, but address, in addition, comparative topics.  His recent book, The Light of the World: Astronomy in al-Andalus (University of California Press, 2016) studied scientific theories which were produced in Andalusia in 1400, and which traveled first to the Ottoman court and then to the University of Padua.  His research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and by fellowships at the Stanford Humanities Center and the National Humanities Center.  Currently, he is at work on a study of Jewish scholarly intermediaries between the Ottoman Empire and Renaissance Italy.

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