middle ages

Abu al-Wafa Buzjani – Negative Numbers and Trigonometry

Abu al-Wafa Buzjani – Negative Numbers and Trigonometry

On June 10, 940, Persian mathematician and astronomer Abū al-Wafāʾ, Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad ibn Yaḥyā ibn Ismāʿīl ibn al-ʿAbbās al-Būzjānī was born. Abu l-Wafa wrote several books on applied mathematics, made several important trigonometric discoveries, and wrote now-lost commentaries on the works of Euclid, Diophantus of Alexandria, and al-Chwarizmi. His work on arithmetics for businessmen contains the first instance of using negative numbers in a medieval Islamic text. Abu al-Wafa – Biographical Background…
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Einhard, the Scribe, and the Life of Charlemagne

Einhard, the Scribe, and the Life of Charlemagne

On March 14, 840, Frankish scholar and courtier Einhard passed away. A dedicated servant of Charlemagne [1] and his son Louis the Pious, Einhard’s is best known for “Vita Karoli Magni“, a biography of Charlemagne, one of the most precious literary bequests of the early Middle Ages. Einhard’s Family Background and Education Einhard, who came from a noble East Franconian family in the eastern German-speaking part of the Frankish Kingdom, was initially educated in the…
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Abbot Suger and the Birth of the Gothic Style

Abbot Suger and the Birth of the Gothic Style

On January 13, 1151, French abbot, statesman, historian and one of the earliest patrons of Gothic architecture, Suger passed away. The eastern end of the Basilica Church of St. Denis, built by Abbot Suger and completed in 1144, is often cited as the first truly Gothic building, as it draws together many of architectural forms which had evolved from Romanesque and typify the Gothic style. “The new chevet being joined to the narthex,…
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Basilios Bessarion and the Great Revival of Letters

Basilios Bessarion and the Great Revival of Letters

On January 2, 1403, Roman Catholic Cardinal Bishop Basilius Bessarion was born. The titular Latin Patriarch of Constantinople, Bessarion was one of the illustrious Greek scholars who contributed to the great revival of letters in the 15th century. One of the most learned scholars of his time, Bessarion spread knowledge of Greek language and learning by building a personal library that included a large collection of Greek manuscripts, by his patronage of…
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Frederick II – The “Wonder of the World”

Frederick II – The “Wonder of the World”

On December 26, 1194, Frederick II, one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages and head of the House of Hohenstaufen was born. Speaking six languages (Latin, Sicilian, German, French, Greek and Arabic), Frederick was an avid patron of science and the art, called by a contemporary chronicler stupor mundi (“the wonder of the world”). “But our intention in this book on falconry is to show what is…
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Averroes – The Commentator and Polymath

Averroes – The Commentator and Polymath

On December 10, 1198, medieval Andalusian polymath Abū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rušd, better known as Averroes, passed away. Averroes wrote on logic, Aristotelian and Islamic philosophy, theology, the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, psychology, political and Andalusian classical music theory, geography, mathematics, and the mediæval sciences of medicine, astronomy, physics, and celestial mechanics. Averroes had a greater impact on Christian Europe: he has been described as the “founding father of…
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Marco Polo – The Great Traveler and Merchant

Marco Polo – The Great Traveler and Merchant

Around 1254 (according to some sources on September 15, 1254 [1]) Venetian merchant traveler Marco Polo was born. He is best known for his journeys to Central Asia and China, narrated in the book “Il Milione” (‘The Book of the Wonders of the World‘). “I have not told half of what I saw.” – Marco Polo, On his death-bed, when urged to retract “some of the seemingly incredible statements he made in his…
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Al-Biruni – Mathematician, Astronomer and Founder of Indology

Al-Biruni – Mathematician, Astronomer and Founder of Indology

On September 4, 973, Muslim scholar Al-Biruni was born. He is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and linguist. He is referred to as the founder of Indology for his remarkable description of early 11th-century India. “You well know … for which reason I began searching for a…
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The Viking Raid on the Abbey of Lindisfarne

The Viking Raid on the Abbey of Lindisfarne

On 8 June, 793 AD, Vikings destroyed the abbey on Lindisfarne, a centre of learning that was famous across the continent. This event also is considered as the beginning of the Viking Age, when Scandinavian Norsemen explored Europe by its seas and rivers for trade, raids and conquest. Recently, this first Viking assault has gained more public interest because of the popular tv series “Vikings” (“Wrath of the Northmen“), in which the…
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Thomas Aquinas and the Tradition of Scholasticism

Thomas Aquinas and the Tradition of Scholasticism

On March 7, 1271, Thomas Aquinas, Italian Dominican friar and priest and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, passed away. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy was conceived in development or refutation of his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory. “All that I have written seems like straw compared to what has now been…
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