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Natural Science
NATS 1775
Vera Pavri

2009 © Vera Pavri Lecture 3: Technology in the Middle Ages I. Medieval Attitudes towards Technology - distinct views of technology developed within medieval intellectual tradition; one that we will examine closely today involves linking technical arts with religious salvation - idea that technical arts could lead to religious salvation first proposed by Hugh of St. Victor around 1140 AD who saw the mechanical arts as “part of man’s religious and philosophical quest” - St. Victor saw mechanical arts as a branch of knowledge that paralleled theoretical knowledge and practical arts - Theoretical knowledge was a remedy for ignorance; practical knowledge a remedy for vice and the mechanical arts a remedy for physical weakness - Pursuing any of these kinds of knowledge would contribute to man’s rise from his fallen state (i.e. Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, etc…) and would lead to religious salvation - Different ideas about how influential St. Victor’s views were - Most positive attitudes towards technology found in artisan monk and laboring classes as opposed to medieval philosophers who continued to reject the importance of the technical arts - In treatises written by these philosophers, the mechanical arts continued to be subordinate to all other sciences - This was because the mechanical arts were preoccupied with the body and material world - crafts therefore were considered “unworthy, servile or vulgar” - Aristotle’s views on technology greatly influenced many of these medieval philosophers: he believed that technical arts or craftwork was “base” and that this kind of knowledge was inferior to theoretical knowledge because former dealt with particular or specific kinds of information while theoretical info was more universalistic and could be applied to all phenomena - Some philosophers influenced by Arab tradition did give mechanical arts a higher status but on the whole, during this time the technical arts remained subordinate to natural philosophy II. Asian Technology in the Middle Ages - The “Golden Age” of Chinese science and technology came with the Sung dynasty (960-1279 AD) - Chinese civilization developed many techniques for improving agricultural practices and increasing rice surpluses - Population rose from 50M in 800 AD to 115M by 1200AD - In China, science and technology were also considered to be very separate traditions done by different people in different institutions, etc… - Although craftsmen had a lower social status than natural philosophers, China became a world leader in technological advancement 1 2009 © Vera Pavri - Chinese “firsts” include the wheelbarrow, gunpowder, porcelain, umbrella, fishing reel, suspension bridges, paper-making, moveable type - Chinese also using paper money by 1024 AD - One reason why Chinese are so successful in producing these kind of technologies is because of government involvement: government owned many of the industries (i.e. mining, silk, paper-making, iron production) and employed craftsmen who specialized in particular fields to work in these factories - One of the most important technologies to come out of China was block printing (9 century) and moveable type (11 century)h - Important to understand that although moveable type was invented in China, it eventually became a much more successful technology in Europe, especially after the advent of the printing press - Why? Some consider moveable type impractical for Chinese writing which involves complex pictograms - Gunpowder also developed in mid 9 century in China, although it was initially used for fireworks, etc… and not for military purposes th - By 12 century gunpowder was being used for military purposes such as rockets, explosive grenades, bombs, guns, etc… - Chinese also amongst first to use magnetic compass (2 century); initially did so for spiritual practices, such as the proper area to site houses, temples, roads, etc… th th - Compass eventually used as navigational tool by 12 century, and by 15 century China had one of the largest navies in the world - However, by end of 15 century there begins to be a decline in oversees travel, shipbuilding - Reasons for this change include construction of Grand Canal: lots of money put into this technological project, removed need to go oversees; also could be result of whims of ruling party III. European Technology in the Middle Ages - while many technical advances “lost” in Middle Ages, European innovation came with new agricultural techniques and energy sources - Europe had an “Agricultural Revolution” between 600-1000 AD where its population rose almost 30% - This came as a result of new technological innovations which allowed for a greater agricultural surplus - In Europe, land is very scarce; land used for everything and use of wood for fuel makes it even more of a precious commodity - Most land that was cultivated in Europe at this time was done by a light plow where only 2-3 oxen used - Major change came with invention of heavy plow which used up to 8 oxen; this allowed heavier, richer land (soil) to be cultivated for farming - Europe also started importing crops from “new world” like potatoes, maize 2 2009 © Vera Pavri - At this time, also see substitution of horse for ox as draft animal (horses could move faster and for longer periods of time than oxen); horse collar - One major agricultural innovation included development of a 3-field rotation system for planting crops (production went from 33% to 50%) as opposed to 2 field system - With development of heavy plow, etc…, there is a rise in communal agriculture as most individuals could not afford to go at it alone - Medieval villages thus had form of collective ownership, communal agriculture - Use of horses allowed villages to grow; see rise of cathedral building and first universities constructed at this time - Medieval culture consists of lords, ladies, knights, etc… - Along with these agricultural developments there are other important technical innovations - Chinese invention of stirrup (5 century) came to Europe by about 8 th century: prior to invention, most battles fought on ground; men would dismount from horses to engage in combat - With stirrup, no longer had to get off horse to fight - New energy sources also include increased use of waterwheels and windmills; helped power sawmills, flour mills, etc… and this increased agricultural and material production - Machinery could be found in most villages; people became more familiar with the technology - Slavery versus labor saving machines argument - Black Death in Europe between 1347-48 wiped out 1/3 of population - By 14 century, there is rise in use of military technologies: adoption of gunpowder, manufacturing of guns (musket introduced in 1550s) and cannons meant decline of “knight in shining armor” - Military technology greatly financed by thate or royal treasuries; for example, French in latter half of 15 century went from producing 20000 pounds to 500000 pounds of gunpowder - role of military technology and the rise of nation-states IV. The Mechanical Clock - Mechanical clock one of the first technologies to be made entirely out of metal; its importance in our society today cannot be underestimated - examining the origins and spread of mechanical clock allows us to examine some important themes related to this course including the “economic needs” argument as well as cross-cultural comparisons of technological use 3 2009 © Vera Pavri 1. Origins of the Mechanical Clock a. Uncertain Past - difficult to pinpoint exact date of when the mechanical clock was invented or who developed it; 1272-1330 is the general timeframe - one reason for this: language- in medieval times, term “horologia” refers to all time-keeping devices including water clocks (clepsydra), sundials, bells- thus early on no distinguished term for mechanical clock - word “clock”- cloche- meaning bell - many of these devices had their origins outside Europe such as China b. Historical Background of the Mechanical Clock - many historians have disputed the origins of the mechanical clock- much of this had to do with its uncertain background - over time- what has developed are two major schools of thought about the origins of the mechanical clock: one that sees the mechanical clock as part of a continuous tradition of time- keepers and time indicators such as sundials, water clocks, bell ringing mechanisms versus one that sees the mechanical clock as a simpler branch of a more complicated technology (astrolabes ) - most historians have adopted the first tradition, the second is worth discussing because it touches upon two important facets of the history of technology: cultural disputes about the paternity of an invention, the idea of technical diffusion c. The Price / Needham Thesis - Derick Price and Joseph Needham are two historians who contend that the mechanical clock is a degenerate “fallen angel” of more complicated technical devices such as the astrolabe - Measurement of time of day is the “left over” part of a greater technological tradition - Both contend that the prototype of the mechanical clock comes from China; Chinese device was extremely complicated astronomical water clock devised by man named Su Sung - There is a kind of escapement in this elaborate astronomical water clock- and both Needham and Price contend that this is the “missing link” in the technical development o
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