Brian E. and Sandra O'Brien Presidential Professor
Department of the History of Science
B.A., History, Stanford University, 1974
B.S., Mathematics, Stanford University, 1974
M.A., History, University of California, Los Angeles, 1977
Ph.D., History, University of California, Los Angeles, 1982
My research focuses on the formation of scientific disciplines and discussions of the nature of science in the middle ages. To that end, I have also investigated the pedagogical practices of late-medieval universities and the tendency to revise texts, especially commentaries on Aristotle and theological works like commentaries on Peter Lombard’s Sentences. My first book assessed these issues in the Sentences commentary by the fourteenth-century Franciscan, John of Reading, while my second focused on commentaries on the Posterior Analytics and the Sentences written by the fifteenth-century Dominican, Antonius de Carlenis. An article on the content of a manuscript in the medieval library of the Benedictine monastery of Saint-Bertin, now Saint-Omer, Bibliothèque municipale 504, appeared recently in Portraits de Maîtres offerts à Olga Weijers. Most of the codex contains the commentary on the Sentences written by Pierre d’Allouagne in 1338-1340, but the volume also includes several academic exercises from the University of Paris around 1340. In 2015, "Medieval Science in the West and Middle East," co-authored with Sonja Brentjes (Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin) will appear in the Oxford Illustrated History of Science. My current research project takes me back to the medieval library of Saint-Bertin, and my goal is to reconstruct the library by identifying modern survivors of a collection that has been dispersed since the French Revolution.
In my courses, I attempt to integrate the history of premodern science with more general investigations of culture, including art and architecture, political and social history, and religious expression. My courses range from undergraduate surveys in the history of science to more specialized undergraduate courses on medieval science and the Galileo Affair. My graduate teaching focuses more closely on my research interests, and in recent years I have given courses on the commentary tradition in antiquity, the middle ages, and the Renaissance, the varieties of university pedagogical literatures in the middle ages, and more specific natural philosophical problems in the middle ages.
I have also been interested in creating electronic tools for scholars interested in the medieval scholastic tradition. For several years I have been compiling a bio- and bibliographical database of medieval commentators on Aristotle’s works and Peter Lombard’s Sentences, and I am also the 1330-1360 section chair for a project to revise and augment Friedrich Stegmüller’s Repertorium commentariorum in Sententias Petri Lombardi sponsored by the Société internationale pour l'étude de la philosophie médiévale.
My research has been supported by a number of grants and fellowships. I have received three Fulbright Research Fellowships: at Oxford University (1988-89), the Université de Paris I (Sorbonne) (2005-2006), and the Bibliothèque d’Agglomération de Saint-Omer (2014-2015). With funding from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, I was Directeur de recherche associé at the Sorbonne in 1993-94. Other grants or fellowships have been awarded by the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship Program at St. Louis University, the American Philosophical Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Huntington Library and the Neil Ker Memorial Fellowship Program of the British Academy. I have also received $455,000 from the Rockefeller and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations in support of institutional pre- and postdoctoral fellowship programs at OU.