Person: Magnus, Saint Albertus
Albert (or Albertus Magnus) was a German Dominican who wrote a commentary on Euclid's Elements. He was made a Saint in 1931 and, in 1941, was made patron of natural scientists.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Albertus would play a major role in accepting this new learning into Europe with his wide ranging scholarship over essentially the whole of knowledge.
- By 'experiment' Albertus meant 'observing, describing and classifying'.
- Not only did Albertus advocate what we would call today the scientific approach to studying the real world, but he did so in such a way that his ideas were accepted by the Church.
- Not everyone held Albertus in high esteem, however.
- Bacon, who was a contemporary, and in many ways a rival of Albertus, was highly critical (although one can sense that he is attacking someone whom he considers to have undeservedly achieved more than he has).
- One has to understand that Bacon was himself an even stronger advocate of experimental science than was Albertus but, although himself a devote Christian, unlike Albertus he overstepped what the Church might accept.
- Bacon was also correct to see errors in Albertus's writings for Bacon had a deeper understanding of science than had Albertus.
- In 1248 Albertus left Paris to set up the new Studium Generale which was essentially a Dominican university in Cologne.
- In 1254 Albertus became superior of the Dominican province of Teutonia (Germany).
- In 1274 Pope Gregory X required Albertus to attend the Second Council of Lyon.
- At this Roman Catholic Council Albertus took a full part in discussing questions of doctrine, administration, discipline, and other matters.
- By this time Albertus was an old man, but he travelled to Paris to argue in favour of Thomas Aquinas, whose ideas of course, although not identical to his own, were similar in their support for the teachings of Aristotle.
- We should note, however, that Albertus did not treat Aristotle's writings as absolutely and necessarily correct.
- What of Albertus's contributions to mathematics?
- The text shows that Albertus was familiar with the Latin translations from Arabic of Euclid's Elements by Boethius and Adelard of Bath.
- Since Albertus has clearly not read the translation by Campanus then, given the range of Albertus's scholarship, one can reasonably assume that Albertus wrote his commentary on Euclid before that of Campanus.
- In Super Dionysii epistulas Ⓣ(On letters of Dionysus) Albertus considers the motion of the "Sphere of Stars" with the aim of determining whether the eclipse at the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was natural or miraculous.
- Among his other works is De natura locorum (on the nature of places) which is a work on geography in which Albertus presents data on locations and features and emphasises the importance of geography in understanding the world.
- Although Albertus was able to argue convincingly for Thomas Aquinas in 1277, by the following year his memory was beginning to fail him.
- In 1941 Albertus was made patron of natural scientists by Pope Pius XII.
Born about 1200, Lauingen an der Donau, Swabia (now Germany). Died 15 November 1280, Cologne, Prussia (now Germany).
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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