The Middle Ages
Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University
of Wisconsin-Green Bay
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The High Middle Ages (1100-1300)
- General trickle of ancient knowledge via Spain and Sicily.
- Almagest of Ptolemy, 1100 via Spain.
- Gerard of Cremona (1114-1187). Seventy translations including Avicenna's medical encyclopedia.
- Arabic (actually Hindu) numerals.
- Astrolabe appeared in Moslem world ca. 800, Europe 1200.
- Six translations of Euclid by 1200.
- Eastern Technological Innovations
- Paper from China to Europe by 1200.
- Trebuchet (counterweight catapult) from China ca. 1100.
- Compass appears in Europe ca. 1200.
- Windmills from near East ca. 1100.
- Possibly the concept of clock escapement mechanisms.
- Independent Inventions in Europe
Rise of Western Science and the Decline of Islamic Science
- Islamic attitude ca. 1100 became conservative, mistrustful of effects of science on faith. (al-Ghazzali, 1058-1111). Accelerated by trauma of Crusades and Mongol sack of Baghdad.
- Western writers, especially Thomas Aquinas, argued all truth was one and there should be no conflict between science and religion.
- Revival of interest in Roman law developed general belief in order.
- Feudal, military culture.
- Positive influences
- Corruption, popular discontent
- Rise of universities
- Arts and philosophy
Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Aquinas, Ockham, Bacon
A Distant Mirror - The 14th Century
Period was a time of turmoil, diminished expectation, feeling of
helplessness at forces beyond human control.
Two Great Natural Disasters
- Little Ice Age - late 1200's to 1600 or so.
- Baltic Sea froze over 1303, 1306-7.
- Alpine glaciers advanced.
- Norse settlements in Greenland cut off.
- Grain cultivation ceased in Iceland.
- Crops failed after heavy rains, 1315; famine, reports of cannibalism, epidemics.
- Bubonic Plague
- First wave 1347-1350.
- Six more waves 1350-1400.
- Population of Europe cut by 50% by 1400.
- Probably closest approach to the effects of a thermonuclear war in history.
- Closure of route to China, 1368.
- Hundred Years War 1337-1450. Supremacy of longbow over crossbow.
- Great Western Schism 1378. (Wycliff, first of the reformers).
- Advance of Turks in Balkans.
Effects of Disorder
- Rise of graphic, often gruesome, realism in art.
- Hysteria, religious fanaticism.
- Search for scapegoat.
- Jews (linked to resentment over money-lending, desire to erase debts).
- Witches (linked to suppression of Knights Templars via sensational witchcraft and sorcery trials which fanned popular hysteria).
Start of the Renaissance
Term first used by late 14th century by Italian scholars who saw
themselves as the vanguard of a period of improved conditions.
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Created 27 Dec 1996
Last Update 28 January 1998
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