Adelhard (Adelard) of  Bath - Give and take reason

About a thousand years ago the Moors in Spain were in possession of a great deal of early Greek, Indian, and later Arabic, mathematics, but carefully guarded it from Europe. Many European scholars around 1100 began to seek out this Arabic knowledge. An English monk, Adelhard of Bath (c. 1090 - c. 1150) studied in Syria and southern Italy. About 1120, at considerable personal risk, Adelhard disguised himself as a Mohammedan student to attend lectures in Cordova . He managed to sneak out a copy of  Euclid's Elements and in other ways helped bring Europe's mathematical Dark Age to an end. Now that's a real "cloak and dagger" story!

Adelhard, at some risk, also set his reason against the authority of the Catholic Church. He is said to have said that he would not listen to those who are "led in a halter ... Wherefore if you want to hear anything from me, give and take reason." When studying mathematics it is well to remember how much we owe to the courageous, independent and inquiring intellects of scholars such as Adelhard of Bath.

Bent E. Petersen - 1998


I wrote a little advertising blurb for the Oregon State University Summer Session 1998 Bulletin (page 65) concerning Adelhard. Here's how it turned out after improvements by the editor.

Think about the mysteries of math

Over a thousand years ago the Moors in Spain possessed
much early Greek and Indian, and later Arabic, mathemat-
ics, but carefully guarded it from the rest of Europe. About
1120, an English monk, Adelhard of Bath, at considerable
risk disguised himself as a Mohammedan student to attend
lectures in Cordova. He managed to sneak out a copy of
Euclid's Elements and in other ways helped open the mys-
teries of mathematics to Europe.
This summer you can explore mathematics in a relaxed
atmosphere, and unlike Adelhard you will not need a dis-
guise -- though no one will mind if you wear one. You can get
ahead in your studies, or catch up. There's calculus through
differential equations, linear algebra, discrete mathematics,
numerical analysis, and short graduate courses in the use of
technology in mathematics education. So what are you
waiting for? You can even take a course just for fun. Think
about it.


Disclaimer: This article is a vignette with a vaguely mathematical content. It is intended to amuse and to entice. It is not a scholarly paper. If you seriously want to know more or to question what is here, then search the expert literature.

Copyright 1998 Bent E. Petersen. This document may be used, copied and distributed freely, entire and intact, for any purpose, but may not be altered. If you want to improve on it, which can certainly be done, then please write your own.

No claim of historical veracity is made, quite the contrary.

Last updated Thursday, April 10, 2003

If you have corrections, suggestions or comments feel free to email me,

bent@alum.mit.edu
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