The Renaissance marked a turning point in Europe’s relationship to Arabic thought. On the one hand, Dag Nikolaus Hasse argues, it was the period in which important Arabic traditions reached the peak of their influence in Europe. On the other hand, it is the time when the West began to forget, and even actively suppress, its debt to Arabic culture. Success and Suppressiontraces the complex story of Arabic influence on Renaissance thought.
It is often assumed that the Renaissance had little interest in Arabic sciences and philosophy, because humanist polemics from the period attacked Arabic learning and championed Greek civilization. Yet Hasse shows that Renaissance denials of Arabic influence emerged not because scholars of the time rejected that intellectual tradition altogether but because a small group of anti-Arab hard-liners strove to suppress its powerful and persuasive influence. The period witnessed a boom in new translations and multivolume editions of Arabic authors, and European philosophers and scientists incorporated—and often celebrated—Arabic thought in their work, especially in medicine, philosophy, and astrology. But the famous Arabic authorities were a prominent obstacle to the Renaissance project of renewing European academic culture through Greece and Rome, and radical reformers accused Arabic science of linguistic corruption, plagiarism, or irreligion. Hasse shows how a mixture of ideological and scientific motives led to the decline of some Arabic traditions in important areas of European culture, while others continued to flourish.
The era of the Scientific Revolution has long been epitomized by Galileo. Yet many women were at its vanguard, deeply invested in empirical culture. They experimented with medicine and practical alchemy at home, at court, and through collaborative networks of practitioners. In academies, salons, and correspondence, they debated cosmological discoveries; in their literary production, they used their knowledge of natural philosophy to argue for their intellectual equality to men.
Meredith Ray restores the work of these women to our understanding of early modern scientific culture. Her study begins with Caterina Sforza’s alchemical recipes; examines the sixteenth-century vogue for “books of secrets”; and looks at narratives of science in works by Moderata Fonte and Lucrezia Marinella. It concludes with Camilla Erculiani’s letters on natural philosophy and, finally, Margherita Sarrocchi’s defense of Galileo’s “Medicean” stars.
Combining literary and cultural analysis, Daughters of Alchemy contributes to the emerging scholarship on the variegated nature of scientific practice in the early modern era. Drawing on a range of under-studied material including new analyses of the Sarrocchi–Galileo correspondence and a previously unavailable manuscript of Sforza’s Experimenti, Ray’s book rethinks early modern science, properly reintroducing the integral and essential work of women.
This volume explores scholars’ use of Lucretius’ Epicurean didactic poem De Rerum Natura from its rediscovery in 1417 to 1600, focusing on the challenges its atomistic physics posed to Christian patterns of thought. In a period when atheism was often considered a sign of madness, the sudden availability of a sophisticated system that explained natural phenomena in non-theistic ways, and that argued powerfully against the immortality of the soul, the afterlife, and a creator God, threatened to supply the one weapon unbelief had lacked in the Middle Ages: good answers. At the same time, humanist scholars who idealized ancient Rome were eager to study a poem whose language and structure so often anticipated their beloved Aeneid. This book uncovers humanist methods for reconciling Christian and pagan philosophy, and shows how atomism and ideas of emergent order and natural selection, so critical to our current thinking, became situated in Europe’s intellectual landscape at the beginning of the scientific transformations of the seventeenth century. It employs a new quantitative method for analyzing marginalia in manuscripts and printed books, whose results expose how changes in scholarly reading practices over the course of the sixteenth century, fostered by the growth of printing, controlled the circulation of texts and gradually expanded Europe’s receptivity to radical science, setting the stage for the scientific revolution.