This article appeared in the December 2020 issue of Discover magazine. Subscribe to support our science journalism.
The Light Ages: The Surprising Story of Medieval Science Medieval Science by Seb Falk
When I think “medieval science,” not much comes to mind — just a big, empty space between ancient Greek thinkers like Plato and Renaissance-era scientists like da Vinci or Galileo. But the Dark Ages may not have been as devoid of progress as its name implies; historian Falk argues it was actually an era brimming with scientific inquiry.
Falk gives us an insider’s look at medieval science through the life of a single 14th-century Benedictine monk: John Westwyk. By following notes from Westwyk and his contemporaries — a sketched diagram of a sundial, musings scribbled in a manuscript’s margins — Falk is able to reconstruct the monk’s story. He takes readers from the meadows of Westwick to the halls