Science & Technology of the Medieval Era 2

Science & Technology of the Medieval Era

What is Alchemy?

medieval alchemistThe study of alchemy meant that medieval people beleived they could change, or transmutation metals. The Philosophers' Stone is a legendary alchemical substance, said to be capable of turning metals like lead into gold. Some also believed it to be an elixir of life, to achieve rejuvenation and immortality. Tt was the most sought-after goal for a long time. Alchemists like Sir Isaac Newton and Nicolas Flamel sought it.

The Stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. The discovery of the philosopher's stone was known as the Great Work. The philosopher's stone has been a subject of inspiration in tons of artistic works in novels, comics, movies, animations, video games, and even in music from the Medieval days and still today.

Real Science in the Medieval Era

We now know it's not going to happen, but Muslim physicians made a number of real and significant contributions to medicine. They set up the earliest dedicated hospitals, including psychiatric hospitals and medical schools which issued diplomas to students qualified to become doctors of medicine.

Scientific activities were carried on throughout the Middle Ages in areas as diverse as astronomy, medicine, and mathematics. In the ancient world, Greek had been the primary language of science. Latin-speakers who wanted to learn about science only had access to books by Roman writers.

The first half of the 14th century saw the scientific work of great thinkers. The logic studies by William of Occam led him to postulate a specific formulation of the principle of parsimony, known today as Occam's Razor. You might have heard that one in a movie or book too! It simply means "the simplest explanation is usually the correct one." This principle is used by scientists today to select between two or more undetermined theories.

Here's a short list of a few of the great minds of the Middle Ages and how they've affected us today.
  • About 900, Al-Battani improved the precision of the measurement of the precession of the Earth's axis.
  • Physicist Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), an 11th-century Muslim is considered the father of modern optics.
  • Al-Kindi wrote the De Gradibus, where he demonstrated the application of quantification and mathematics to medicine and pharmacology. He used mathematics to measure the strength of drugs and to determin in advance of the most critical days of a patient's illness.
  • Al-Khwarizmi gave his name to the concept of the algorithm, while the term algebra is derived from his publication Al-Jabr. He recognized algebra as a distinct field of mathematics.

The replacement of Roman numerals with the decimal system and the invention of algebra allowed more advanced mathematics. The Saracens (Muslims) themselves were the originators not only of algebra, chemistry, and geology but of many of the so-called improvements or refinements of civilization in and before the middle ages such as street lamps, window-panes, firework, stringed instruments, cultivated fruits, perfumes, spices, and so forth.

A series of events that came to be known as the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages. The Black Death of 1348 caused a sudden end to a period of massive scientific change. The plague killed a third of the people in Europe, mostly in the crowded conditions of the towns, where the heart of the innovations lay. Recurrences of the plague and other disasters caused a continuing decline of population for a century.

Class Disscussions

  1. What do you think the innovators of the Medieval Ages might have invented had there been no Black Plague?
  2. It took a long time to communicate from country to country in the Middle Ages. What could they have done to speed things up and to communicate better? Remember, there were different languages that needed translating too.

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