This class examines ancient and mediaeval conceptions of nature, technology, and what it meant to ‘know’ nature (science).

We treat the study of nature in the Ancient and Medieval West by a combination of both thematic and chronological approaches. It considers the most general views of nature and science as well as specific developments within these general understandings.

Historically the course will cover over three millenia, beginning with the civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. Much attention will be given to the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific achievements, and their assimilation and development in the Hellenistic context of the Roman Empire. The civilizations of medieval Islam and Christianity will form the background to our exploration of how these ancient foundations help shape the way nature is conceived and studied in medieval Europe. This course will be of interest to both science and humanities students willing to read primary texts central to the intellectual pre-history of the scientific enterprise that dominates western civilization.