Adelard of Bath

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Adelard of Bath (Latin: Adelardus Bathensis) (c. 1080 – c. 1152) was a 12th century English scholar. He is known both for his original works and for translating many important Greek and Arabic scientific works of astrology, astronomy, philosophy and mathematics into Latin from Arabic versions, which were then introduced to Western Europe. He is known as one of the first to introduce the Indian number system to Europe. He stands at the convergence of three intellectual schools: the traditional learning of French schools, the Greek culture of Southern Italy, and the Arabic science of the East.[2]



Though little is known of Adelard's early life, evidence that he is from Bath comes from his introduction to his treatise on the Astrolabe.[3] It is believed that he left England toward the end of the 11th century for Tours, likely on the advice of Bishop John de Villula, who had moved the seat of his bishopric from Wells to Bath in 1090. During his studies in Tours, an anonymous "wise man of Tours" inspired Adelard with his interest in astronomy to study the science.[4] Adelard later taught for a time at Laon, leaving Laon for travel no later than 1109.[5] After leaving Laon, he travelled to Southern Italy and Sicily no later than 1116.[2] He then spent seven years travelling in the East, mentioning how he devoted himself entirely to the study of the "wisdom of the Arabs" as he wrote about his long sojourns in places like Tarsus and Antioch.[2] By 1126, Adelard returned to the West with the intention of spreading the knowledge he had gained about Arabic astronomy and geometry to the Latin world.[2]

Main Works

Among Adelard of Bath's original works is a trio of dialogues or correspondence with his nephew. The earliest of these is De Eodem et Diverso (On the Same and the Different). It is written in the style of a protreptic, or an exhortation to the study of philosophy.[6] The work is modeled on Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, evident in Adelard's vocabulary and phraseology.[7] It is believed to have been written near Tours after he had already travelled, though there is no indication that he has travelled past Southern Italy and Sicily at the time of writing.[2] The work takes the form of a dramatic dialogue between Philocosmia, who advocates worldly pleasures, and Philosophia, whose defence of scholarship leads into a summary of the seven liberal arts. Underlining the entire work is the contrast between Philocosmia's res (perceptible reality), and Philosophia's verba (mental concepts).[8] Each section of the liberal arts is divided into two parts. Presented first is a description of the allegorical figure representing the art, in which the importance of that art is indicated, followed by a summary of the doctrines of that art, as told by the allegorical figure who is presented as the founder or main proponent of that particular art.[7]

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