Toward a New History of Medieval Science: Cinnamon

Katharine Park

October 30, 2019 - 12:00 to 14:00

IHPST Common Room VC 303, Victoria College, U of T St George Campus

This paper is the first draft of a chapter for a book-in-progress, co-authored with Ahmed Ragab of Harvard Divinity School, that aims to replace the old narrative regarding the history of medieval science, according to which the ancient Graeeks invented science, passed it on to “the Arabs,” who passed it on in turn to the Latin West, who built on this intellectual inheritance, going on to invent “modern science” in the early modern period. We substitute for this a new narrative, which recognizes that medieval Greek, Arabic, and Latin science formed a single tradition, that they were contemporary rather than sequential developments, and that they evolved in ongoing communication with one another throughout the medieval period. The book, which covers the period from 750 to 1650, is organized into ± 20 chapters, arranged roughly chronologically, each one of which is organized around an object of natural knowledge. Chapter 3, Cinnamon, focuses on the ninth and tenth centuries.

Katharine Park is a historian of medieval and early modern European science, with a focus on medicine and the life sciences and on women, gender and sexuality. Samuel Zemurray, Jr. and Doris Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Research Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University, she is the author of Doctors and Medicine in Renaissance Florence (1986) and Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (2006); the co-author, with Lorraine Daston, of Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 (1998); and the co-editor, also with Lorraine Daston, of The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3: Early Modern Science (2008).

This talk is sponsored by the Institut for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.