An interdisciplinary team of physicists, medievalists, Latin scholars and historians of science has embarked on a rich encounter with the great medieval English thinker Robert Grosseteste (1175-1253). We present work on three treatises in Grosseteste’s “scientific” cannon: The De luce (On light), the De colore (On colour) and the De iride (On the Rainbow).
Grosseteste’s cosmos is geocentric, but in the De luce he describes a unifying physics of light and matter so tightly that it can be translated into mathematics, with striking consequences. In the De colore he offers an explicit, mathematically three-dimensional framework to describe variations in perceived colour, and later in the De iride, he links these three dimensions of colour to the properties of natural rainbows.
By using medieval studies and modern science, the treatises can be interpreted in new, stimulating and more complete ways. Separated by eight centuries, the rich encounter between medieval and modern science highlights the enduring human quest to understand natural phenomena.