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Encyclopedia > Robert Grosseteste
A 13th century portrait of Grosseteste.
A 13th century portrait of Grosseteste.

Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175 - October 9, 1253), English statesman, scholastic philosopher, theologian and bishop of Lincoln, was born of humble parents at Stradbroke in Suffolk. A.C. Crombie calls him "the real founder of the tradition of scientific thought in mediaeval Oxford, and in some ways, of the modern English intellectual tradition". Image File history File links Grosseteste_bishop. ... Image File history File links Grosseteste_bishop. ... Events Ruaidri Ua Conchobair (Rory OConner), last High King of Ireland, submits to Henry II as vassal of Ireland with the Treaty of Windsor Ly Cao Ton becomes ruler of Vietnam William of Tyre becomes archbishop of Tyre Massacre of Abergavenny ends with several noblemen dead at the hands... October 9 is the 282nd day of the year (283rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... For broader historical context, see 1250s and 13th century. ... Motto (French) God and my right Anthem God Save the King (Queen) England() – on the European continent() – in the United Kingdom() Capital (and largest city) London (de facto) Official languages English (de facto) Government Constitutional monarchy  -  Queen Queen Elizabeth II  -  Prime Minister Tony Blair MP Unification  -  by Athelstan 967  Area... Scholasticism comes from the Latin word scholasticus, which means that [which] belongs to the school, and is the school of philosophy taught by the academics (or schoolmen) of medieval universities circa 1100–1500. ... Theology is literally rational discourse concerning God (Greek θεος, theos, God, + λογος, logos, rational discourse). By extension, it also refers to the study of other religious topics. ... Arms of the Bishop of Lincoln The Bishop of Lincoln heads the Anglican Diocese of Lincoln in the Province of Canterbury. ... Map sources for Stradbroke at grid reference TM2374 Stradbroke is a village in Suffolk, England, United Kingdom. ... Suffolk (pronounced ) is a large historic and modern non-metropolitan county in East Anglia, England. ... Alistair Cameron Crombie (4 November 1915 – 9 February 1996) was an Australian historian of science who began his career as a zoologist. ...



Grosseteste wrote a number of early works in Latin and French while he was a clerk (see biography below), including one called Chasteau d'amour, an allegorical poem on the creation of the world and Christian redemption, as well as several other poems and texts on household management and courtly etiquette. He also wrote a number of theological works including the influential Hexaëmeron in the 1230s.

However, Grosseteste is best known as an original thinker for his work concerning what would today be called science or the scientific method. Scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena and acquiring new knowledge, as well as for correcting and integrating previous knowledge. ...

From about 1220 to 1235 he wrote a host of scientific treatises including:

  • De sphera. An introductory text on astronomy.
  • De luce. On the "metaphysics of light."
  • De accessione et recessione maris. On tides and tidal movements.
  • De lineis, angulis et figuris. Mathematical reasoning in the natural sciences.
  • De iride. On the rainbow.

He also wrote a number of commentaries on Aristotle, including the first in the West of Posterior Analytics, and one on Aristotle's Physics. Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... Posterior Analytics (or Analytica Posteriora) is a text by Aristotle. ... Aristotles Physics, frontispice of an 1837 edition Physics (or Physica, or Physicae Auscultationes meaning lessons) is a key text in the philosophy of Aristotle. ...


In his works of 1220-1235, in particular the Aristotelian commentaries, Grosseteste laid out the framework for the proper methods of science. Although Grosseteste did not always follow his own advice during his own investigations, his work is seen as instrumental in the history of the development of the Western scientific tradition. Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ...

Grosseteste was the first of the Scholastics to fully understand Aristotle's vision of the dual path of scientific reasoning: generalizing from particular observations into a universal law, and then back again from universal laws to prediction of particulars. Grosseteste called this "resolution and composition". So for example looking at the particulars of the moon, it is possible to arrive at universal laws about nature. And conversely once these universal laws are understood, it is possible to make predictions and observations about other objects besides the moon. Further, Grosseteste said that both paths should be verified through experimentation in order to verify the principles. These ideas established a tradition that carried forward to Padua and Galileo Galilei in the 17th century. Scholastic redirects here. ... Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... Tronco Maestro Riviera: a pedestrian walk along a section of the inland waterway or naviglio interno of Padua. ... KDFSAJFKASJDKFJASDKLJFDKLASJFLKJASKLFJLAKSJFLKSJALFKJSKLJFto the Sun-centered solar system which Galileo supported. ... (16th century - 17th century - 18th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700. ...

As important as "resolution and composition" would become to the future of Western scientific tradition, more important to his own time was his idea of the subordination of the sciences. For example when looking at geometry and optics, optics is subordinate to geometry because optics depends on geometry. Thus Grosseteste concluded that mathematics was the highest of all sciences, and the basis for all others, since every natural science ultimately depended on mathematics. He supported this conclusion by looking at light, which he believed to be the "first form" of all things, it was the source of all generation and motion (approximately what we know as biology and physics today). Hence since light could be reduced to lines and points, and thus fully explained in the realm of mathematics, mathematics was the highest order of the sciences.

Gresseteste's work in optics was also relevant and would be continued by his most famous student: Roger Bacon. In De Iride Grosseteste writes: Statue of Roger Bacon in the Oxford University Museum Roger Bacon (c. ...

This part of optics, when well understood, shows us how we may make things a very long distance off appear as if placed very close, and large near things appear very small, and how we may make small things placed at a distance appear any size we want, so that it may be possible for us to read the smallest letters at incredible distances, or to count sand, or seed, or any sort or minute objects.

A printing of the original Latin text may be found in: Die Philosophischen Werke des Robert Grosseteste, Bischofs von Lincoln (Münster i. W., Aschendorff, 1912.), p. 75.; A reproduction of this text may be found on the website: The Electronic Grossteste here [1].


Grosseteste received his education at Oxford where he became proficient in law, medicine and the natural sciences. Giraldus Cambrensis, whose acquaintance he had made, introduced him, before 1199, to William de Vere, bishop of Hereford. Grosseteste aspired to a post in the bishop's household, but being deprived by death of this patron took up the study of theology. It is possible that he visited Paris for this purpose, but he finally settled in Oxford as a teacher, and as head of Greyfriars. The University of Oxford (usually abbreviated as Oxon. ... Giraldus Cambrensis (c. ... William de Vere was the sixteenth Lord Chancellor of England, during 1142. ... Statistics Population: 50,154 Ordnance Survey OS grid reference: SO515405 Administration District: Herefordshire Region: West Midlands Constituent country: England Sovereign state: United Kingdom Other Ceremonial county: Herefordshire Historic county: Herefordshire Services Police force: West Mercia Fire and rescue: {{{Fire}}} Ambulance: West Midlands Post office and telephone Post town: HEREFORD Postal... City flag City coat of arms Motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur (Latin: Tossed by the waves, she does not sink) Paris Eiffel tower as seen from the esplanade du Trocadéro. ... Greyfriars is one of the smallest constituent Halls of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. ...

His next preferment of importance was the chancellorship of the university. He gained considerable distinction as a lecturer, and was the first rector of the school which the Franciscans established in Oxford about 1224. Grosseteste's learning is highly praised by Roger Bacon. According to Bacon, Grosseteste knew little Greek or Hebrew and paid slight attention to the works of Aristotle, but was pre-eminent among his contemporaries for his knowledge of the natural sciences. Between 1214 and 1231 Grosseteste held in succession the archdeaconries of Chester, Northampton and Leicester. The word rector (ruler, from the Latin regere) has a number of different meanings, but all of them indicate someone who is in charge of something. ... Statue of Roger Bacon in the Oxford University Museum Roger Bacon (c. ... “Hebrew” redirects here. ... Aristotle (Greek: Aristotélēs) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. ... For the larger local government district, see City of Chester. ... Northampton Guildhall, built 1861-4, E.W. Godwin, architect Northampton is a large market town and a local government district in central England on the River Nene, and the county town of Northamptonshire, in the English East Midlands region. ... Leicester city centre, looking towards the Clock Tower Leicester (pronounced ) is the largest city and unitary authority in the English East Midlands. ...

In 1232, after a severe illness, he resigned all his benefices and preferments except one prebend which he held at Lincoln. His intention was to spend the rest of his life in contemplative piety. But he retained the office of chancellor, and in 1235 accepted the bishopric of Lincoln. He undertook without delay the reformation of morals and clerical discipline throughout his vast diocese. This scheme brought him into conflict with more than one privileged corporation, but in particular with his own chapter, who vigorously disputed his claim to exercise the right of visitation over their community. The dispute raged hotly from 1239 to 1245. It was conducted on both sides with unseemly violence, and those who most approved of Grosseteste's main purpose thought it needful to warn him against the mistake of over-zeal. But in 1245, by a personal visit to the papal court at Lyons, he secured a favourable verdict.

In ecclesiastical politics the bishop belonged to the school of Becket. His zeal for reform led him to advance, on behalf of the courts, Christian pretensions which it was impossible that the secular power should admit. He twice incurred a well-merited rebuke from Henry III upon this subject; although it was left for Edward I to settle the question of principle in favour of the state. The devotion of Grosseteste to the hierarchical theories of his age is attested by his correspondence with his chapter and the king. Against the former he upheld the prerogative of the bishops; against the latter he asserted that it was impossible for a bishop to disregard the commands of the Holy See. Where the liberties of the national church came into conflict with the pretensions of Rome he stood by his own countrymen. Saint Thomas à Becket (or Thomas Becket) (ca. ... Henry III (1 October 1207 – 16 November 1272) was crowned King of England in 1216, despite being less than ten years of age. ... Edward I (17 June 1239 – 7 July 1307), popularly known as Longshanks[1], also as Edward the Lawgiver because of his legal reforms, and as Hammer of the Scots,[2] achieved fame as the monarch who conquered Wales and who tried to do the same to Scotland. ...

Thus in 1238 he demanded that the king should release certain Oxford scholars who had assaulted the legate Otho. But at least up to the year 1247 he submitted patiently to papal encroachments, contenting himself with the protection (by a special papal privilege) of his own diocese from alien clerks. Of royal exactions he was more impatient; and after the retirement of Archbishop (Saint) Edmund constituted himself the spokesman of the clerical estate in the Great Council. Edmund Rich, also known as Saint Edmund or Eadmund of Canterbury, was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1234. ...

In 1244 he sat on a committee which was empanelled to consider a demand for a subsidy. The committee rejected the demand, and Grosseteste foiled an attempt on the king's part to separate the clergy from the baronage. "It is written," the bishop said, "that united we stand and divided we fall."

It was, however, soon made clear that the king and pope were in alliance to crush the independence of the English clergy; and from 1250 onwards Grosseteste openly criticized the new financial expedients to which Innocent IV had been driven by his desperate conflict with the Empire. In the course of a visit which he made to Innocent in this year, the bishop laid before the pope and cardinals a written memorial in which he ascribed all the evils of the Church to the malignant influence of the Curia. It produced no effect, although the cardinals felt that Grosseteste was too influential to be punished for his audacity. Pope Innocent IV (Manarola, 1180/90 – Naples, December 7, 1254), born Sinibaldo de Fieschi, Pope from 1243 to 1254, belonged to the feudal nobility of Liguria, the Fieschi, counts of Lavagna. ... A Curia in early Roman times was a subdivision of the people, i. ...

Much discouraged by his failure, the bishop thought of resigning. In the end, however, he decided to continue the unequal struggle. In 1251 he protested against a papal mandate enjoining the English clergy to pay Henry III one-tenth of their revenues for a crusade; and called attention to the fact that, under the system of provisions, a sum of 70,000 marks was annually drawn from England by the alien nominees of Rome. In 1253, upon being commanded to provide in his own diocese for a papal nephew, he wrote a letter of expostulation and refusal, not to the pope himself but to the commissioner, Master Innocent, through whom he received the mandate. The text of the remonstrance, as given in the Burton Annals and in Matthew Paris, has possibly been altered by a forger who had less respect than Grosseteste for the papacy. The language is more violent than that which the bishop elsewhere employs. But the general argument, that the papacy may command obedience only so far as its commands are consonant with the teaching of Christ and the apostles, is only what should be expected from an ecclesiastical reformer of Grosseteste's time. There is much more reason for suspecting the letter addressed "to the nobles of England, the citizens of London, and the community of the whole realm," in which Grosseteste is represented as denouncing in unmeasured terms papal finance in all its branches. But even in this case allowance must be made for the difference between modern and medieval standards of decorum. This article is about the medieval crusades. ... Nickname: Motto: SPQR: Senatus Populusque Romanus Location of the city of Rome (yellow) within the Province of Rome (red) and region of Lazio (grey) Coordinates: Region Lazio Province Province of Rome Founded 21 April 753 BC Government  - Mayor Walter Veltroni Area  - City 1,285 km²  (580 sq mi)  - Urban 5...

Grosseteste numbered among his most intimate friends the Franciscan teacher, Adam Marsh. Through Adam he came into close relations with Simon de Montfort. From the Franciscan's letters it appears that the earl had studied a political tract by Grosseteste on the difference between a monarchy and a tyranny; and that he embraced with enthusiasm the bishop's projects of ecclesiastical reform. Their alliance began as early as 1239, when Grosseteste exerted himself to bring about a reconciliation between the king and the earl. But there is no reason to suppose that the political ideas of Montfort had matured before the death of Grosseteste; nor did Grosseteste busy himself overmuch with secular politics, except insofar as they touched the interest of the Church. Grosseteste realised that the misrule of Henry III and his unprincipled compact with the papacy largely accounted for the degeneracy of the English hierarchy and the laxity of ecclesiastical discipline. But he can hardly be termed a constitutionalist. The Order of Friars Minor and other Franciscan movements are disciples of Saint Francis of Assisi. ... Adam Marsh (Adam de Marisco) (d. ... From the Chamber of the United States House of Representatives Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester (1208 – August 4, 1265) was the principal leader of the baronial opposition to King Henry III of England. ...

Optic studies from De Natura Locorum. The diagram shows light being refracted by a spherical glass container full of water.
Optic studies from De Natura Locorum. The diagram shows light being refracted by a spherical glass container full of water.

Grosseteste died on October 9, 1253. He must then have been between seventy and eighty years of age. He was already an elderly man, with a firmly established reputation, when he became a bishop. As an ecclesiastical statesman he showed the same fiery zeal and versatility of which he had given proof in his academic career; but the general tendency of modern writers has been to exaggerate his political and ecclesiastical services, and to neglect his performance as a scientist and scholar. The opinion of his own age, as expressed by Matthew Paris and Roger Bacon, was very different. His contemporaries, while admitting the excellence of his intentions as a statesman, lay stress upon his defects of temper and discretion. But they see in him the pioneer of a literary and scientific movement; not merely a great ecclesiastic who patronized learning in his leisure hours, but the first mathematician and physicist of his age. He anticipated, in these fields of thought, some of the striking ideas to which Roger Bacon subsequently gave a wider currency. Image File history File links Grosseteste-optics. ... Image File history File links Grosseteste-optics. ... See also list of optical topics. ... October 9 is the 282nd day of the year (283rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Self portrait of Matthew Paris from the original manuscript of his Historia Anglorum (London, British Library, MS Royal 14. ...

Bishop Grosseteste College, a stone's throw away from Lincoln Cathedral, is named after Robert Grossesteste. The University College provides Initial Teacher Training and academic degrees at all levels. Bishop Grosseteste College is a provider of higher education by degree and Initial Teacher Training. ... Lincoln Cathedral shares with Durham the most spectacular placing of any of the British cathedrals. ...


  • Crombie, A. C. Robert Grosseteste and the Origins of Experimental Science. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971, OCLC 401196. ISBN 0198241895 (1953).
  • Southern, R. W. Robert Grosseteste: The Growth of an English Mind in Medieval Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986. ISBN 0-19-820310-1 (Oxford University Press, USA; 2 edition (February 1, 1992) pbk)

OCLC Online Computer Library Center was founded in 1967 and originally named the Ohio College Library Center (OCLC). ...

See also

The Oxford Franciscan school was the name given to a group of scholastic philosophers that, in the context of the Renaissance of the 12th century, gave special contribution to the development of science and scientific methodology during the High Middle Ages. ... The history of the scientific method is indivisible from the history of science itself. ... The history of science in the Middle Ages refers to the discoveries in the field of natural philosophy throughout the Middle Ages - the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history. ... A Brazen Head (or Brass Head or Bronze Head) was a prophetic device attributed to many medieval scholars who were believed to be wizards. ...

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Robert Grosseteste

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain. Image File history File links Commons-logo. ... The Wikimedia Commons (also called Wikicommons) is a repository of free content images, sound and other multimedia files. ... 1913 advertisement for the 11th edition, with the slogan When in doubt — look it up in the Encyclopædia Britannica The Encyclopædia Britannica (properly spelled with æ, the ae-ligature) was first published in 1768–1771 as The Britannica was an important early English-language general encyclopedia and is still... The Catholic Encyclopedia, also referred to today as the Old Catholic Encyclopedia, is an English-language encyclopedia published in 1913 by The Encyclopedia Press. ... Encyclopædia Britannica, the 11th edition The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) is perhaps the most famous edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

  Results from FactBites:
Robert Grosseteste (2770 words)
Grosseteste was a man of such varied interests and his career was so many-sided that it will be better to touch separately on his numerous activities than to attempt a chronological account of his life.
Grosseteste Epistolæ", Rolls Series, 1861) to the dean and chapter, and was forced to suspend and ultimately to deprive the dean, while the canons refused to attend in the chapter house.
Grosseteste before his death was full of anxiety for the state of the country and dread for the civil war which was so soon to break out.
Robert Grosseteste Criticism and Essays (1470 words)
Grosseteste left the university in 1229 and devoted his time to teaching the young Franciscan friars at Oxford, a practice that led to the humanities becoming a major part in the education of the friars, enabling them to read and interpret sacred Scripture in a critical manner.
Grosseteste also wrote important essays on meteorology, color, and optics as well as on mathematics; he was one of the first western thinkers to argue that natural phenomena can be described mathematically.
Critics have asserted that perhaps Grosseteste's greatest achievement was in producing a synthesis of thought in science, philosophy, and theology that was to become central in the intellectual development of the Middle Ages, paving the way for the synthesis of reason and faith that was Aquinas's great contribution.
  More results at FactBites »



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