Why we are where we are

In my last blog I talked about a website that I got off the reference list of the book Medieval Science and Technology. In this blog post I am going to focus on the book itself, specifically chapter two: Institutional History. This chapter holds a particular interest for me, one because without the development of universities I would not be where I am now (at a university) and two because universities is one of the arguments the Cracked article uses to dispute the myth scientific progress was dead in the Middle Ages.

ImageThis is a picture of Cambridge University. Take a wild guess at when it was established…Yep the good old Middle Ages.

Early schools during the Middle Ages were called Cathedral Schools, because the schools were often attached to the cathedrals. *Side note: the Gothic cathedrals and churches built during the Middle Ages is another example of how science and technology flourished and was not dead. More about that later.* Cathedral Schools were replaced by Universities during the late twelfth century. These universities were the first of their kind and set a standard that is still used today.

“The university, a medieval invention, was the first educational institution in history to provide a required curriculum and a systematic program of study and examinations leading to the awarding of a recognized degree and professional licenses”

-Elspeth Whitney (author of Medieval Science and Technology)

The curriculum of the universities included the translated works of Aristotle (Greek Philosopher) and Arabic commentators. The Arabic had been translating Aristotle and other Greek works for sometime and had started to develop ideas of their own. When Europe came into contact with these ideas and works, they saw how beneficial it would be to have copies they could read. All of these works were extremely important because they gave the universities a foundation of curriculum that they could prove, debate, and challenge. These works were a spring board for Medieval scholars to create their own ideas from.

ImageThis image is a small portion of the famous painting The School of Athens by Raphael. Aristotle is on the right with dark hair and his teacher, Plato, is on the left with gray hair.

The Cracked article seems to have done a pretty good job on getting their facts right. Correctly stating that universities were started up during this time and that they were big into the translation of Aristotle and Plato. They do speed through the important roles that the universities played in history, but they get their point across.


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