The After Dinner Scholar

Medieval Manuscripts and the Movement of the Heavens with Dr. Henry Zapeda

September 24, 2019

“Everybody knows,” said the US senator at a Senate hearing I attended, “that before Columbus everybody was sure that the world was flat.” 

Regardless of what the senator believes, you’d have to go back a long, long, long time before Columbus to find people who believed the world was flat. In fact, back in about 240 BC not only was it well known that the earth was a ball, but they had managed to calculate its circumference.

And by AD 150, Claudius Ptolemy created his geocentric model of the universe, a model that held sway for 1,500 years until Nicolaus Copernicus and others placed the sun rather than the earth at the center of things.

In that 1,200 years Ptolemy’s treatise, Almagest, was copied over and over. In addition, scholars wrote numerous commentaries on the work.

All of which fascinates Wyoming Catholic College’s Dr. Henry Zepeda who has a particular interested in the way medieval scholars understood the mathematical sciences that they inherited from the Greeks and Arabs. He has spent much of his adult life reading medieval manuscripts in libraries across the United States and Europe and spent this past summer in Kansas City immersed in medieval manuscripts.