Dark Ages were Golden Age of Irish Scholarship

Monday, 14 July 2008

History expert hopeful of a resurgence of interest in science and maths
An International Conference on the significant role played by Ireland in the field of mathematics in the Early Middle Ages takes place at NUI Galway from 18-20 July 2008. The 2nd International Conference on the Science of Computus will bring together leading scholars of Early Medieval scientific knowledge during the period of the so-called 'Dark Ages'. The Science of Computus is the mathematics required to calculate the date of Easter and related topics. Computus straddles the fields of: mathematics and astronomy; biblical interpretation and cosmology; empirical astronomical observation; and the perennial quest to understand the concepts of Time and Time-Reckoning. The conference is organised by the HEA funded Foundations of Irish Culture Project, based in the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies at NUI Galway. According to the Director of the Foundations of Irish Culture Project and conference convener, NUI Galway's Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín: "There is much talk these days about the decline of mathematics and the sciences in Irish schools, and the effect that will have on the future prospects for Ireland's economy and society. What many Irish people don't realise is that Ireland was once at the forefront of mathematics and science. In fact, the 'Dark Ages' were anything but dark in the fields of mathematics and astronomy, rather it was the 'Golden Age' of Irish medieval scholarship." Professor Ó Cróinín is hopeful of a resurgence of interest in science and maths: "We only need to look at events like the Young Scientist Competition, and our own University outreach programmes, to see that there is interest in the sciences among young people which can be cultivated and nurtured. There is also a vast amount of state-of-the-art work being carried out by Irish scholars and researchers, at home and abroad. The conference aims to highlight the very similar cooperative-type work that was being carried out, between Ireland and Europe, during the Golden Age of Irish medieval scholarship." The conference has attracted speakers and experts from Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Scotland, Spain, and the USA. Professor Ó Cróinín added, "From the time of Columbanus, around 615 AD, Irish scholars led Europe in the field of computistical studies. The contribution of our 'Wandering Scholars' is still highly regarded in other countries today, and evidenced by the wide range of international experts participating in our conference." A focus of the conference will be the scientific knowledge that Irish scholars nurtured and developed during the years circa AD 500 to AD 1100. Time-reckoning, calendars, and the minute reckonings required to compute the date of Easter all involved the minutiae of mathematics, including the original concept of 'digital calculation', and astronomical observation in a truly scientific fashion. The event will appeal to those interested in the history of science in Ireland and Europe, or in the origins of present-day mathematical and astronomical ideas. For a full listing of the speakers and topics, and further information, see the conference website: www.foundationsirishculture.ie/conference2008
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