Person: Scot, Michael
Michael Scot (or Scotus) helped in the transmission of Islamic mathematics from Spain to the rest of Europe.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Although believed to have come from the area bordering Northern England and Southern Scotland, doubts on his origins had been cast, since in 1223, he declined the position of Archbishop of Cashel in Ireland by claiming that he was ignorant of gaelic.
- However, the use of gaelic is not widespread in Southern Scotland (as opposed to the North), and given that Scot had broken the barrier of several languages with no impediment to his functions, this claim may have been exaggerated as an excuse to refuse the offer.
- Sir Walter Scott identified him with the Sir Michael Scot of Balwearie, sent in 1290 on a special mission to Norway, but this is rejected by most historians.
- The earliest documented record of his life and work is dated 18 August 1217 in Toledo Spain, where Michael Scot completed the translation from Arabic into Latin of al-Bitruji's Alpetragius the first work to present a non-Ptolemaic astronomical system.
- Michael was part of the Toledan school of Translation, and assisted by Jewish scholars under the direction of the Archbishop Rodrigo Jiménez de la Rada who played a key role in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa against the Muslim Almohads in 1212.
- Scot is said to have been an imperial tutor but manuscripts give him the title of "astrologer".
- Scot had written a number of books but his most significant contributions are through other people and related to his work on translations.
- The second version of Leonardo Fibonacci's famous book on mathematics, Liber Abaci, was dedicated to Michael Scot in 1227.
- It has been suggested that Michael Scot might have even played an indirect role in the presentation of the Fibonacci sequence.
- Scot's translations of Historia animalium, a zoological natural history text by Aristotle with commentaries by Ibn Rushd (Averroes), would help Frederick write his own famous book on falconry.
- Frederick sent Scot to communicate his translations and other scholarly works at prominent European Universities including Oxford where Scot met a young Roger Bacon.
- Scot also explored the Lipari islands, attempting to understand, in alchemical terms, the now realized connection between volcanic activity and the presence of gold.
- However, Muslim scholarship had retained a better collective memory of the works of the ancient Greeks and other cultures, and Michael Scot played a connecting role in bringing this knowledge into Europe.
- Scot's own contributions have both been obscure and misunderstood in part because he lived in an time where science, superstition, religion and belief in magic coexisted together in a messy undisciplined body of thought, a "prehistory" of science.
- Nonetheless, Scot was observant.
- Scots works, largely unfinished, dealt principally with Astrology, Alchemy and "magic" but also included meteorology, music and and various commentaries of a specialized nature.
Born about 1175, (probably) Northern England/Southern Scotland. Died about 1235, (possibly) Northern England/Southern Scotland.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin Scotland
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive