Robert Grosseteste

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Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175 – 9 October 1253), English statesman, scholastic philosopher, theologian and Bishop of Lincoln. He was born of humble parents at Stradbroke in Suffolk. A.C. Crombie calls him "the real founder of the tradition of scientific thought in medieval Oxford, and in some ways, of the modern English intellectual tradition".



There is very little direct evidence about Grosseteste's education. He may have received training in the Liberal Arts at Hereford, in light of his connection to the Bishop of Hereford in the 1190s and a recommendation from Giraldus Cambrensis. It is fairly certain that Grosseteste was a master by 1192, but whether that indicated he completed a course of studies is unclear. Grosseteste acquired a position in the bishop's household, but at the death of this patron, he disappeared from the historical record. He appears again in the early thirteenth century as a judge-delegate in Hereford, but there are no specific details of where he resided or whether he had continued to study.

By 1225, he had gained the benefice of Abbotsley in the diocese of Lincoln by which time he was a deacon. On this period in his life scholarship is divided. Some historians argue that he began his teaching career in theology at Oxford in this year, whereas others have more recently argued that he used the income of this ecclesiastical post to support study in theology at the University of Paris. However, there is clear evidence that by 1229/30 he was teaching at Oxford, but on the periphery as the lector in theology to the Franciscans who had established a convent in Oxford about 1224. He remained at this post until March, 1235.

Grosseteste may also have been appointed Chancellor of the University of Oxford. However, the evidence for this comes from a late thirteenth century anecdote and its main claim is that Grosseteste was in fact entitled the master of students (magister scholarium).

At the same time he began lecturing in theology, the Bishop of Lincoln appointed him Archdeacon of Leicester.[1] and he also gained a prebend that made him a canon in the Lincoln cathedral. However, after a severe illness in 1232, he resigned all his benefices (Abbotsely and Leicester), but retained his prebend. His reasons were due to changing attitudes about the plurality of benefices (holding more than one ecclesiastical position simultaneously) and that after seeking advice from the papal court, he tendered his resignations. The angry response of his friends and colleagues to his resignation took him by surprise and he complained to his sister and his closest friend, the Franciscan Adam Marsh, that his intentions had been completely misunderstood.

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