Necromancy, Celestial Divination, and the Introduction of Arabic Science into England, c. 1080-1180

Elly Truitt, Bryn Mawr College

Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science

Friday, February 27, 2009 - 3:00pm

The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust Street

Time: 4:00 - 5:30 p.m., followed by social hour and light dinner Place: The Library Company of Philadelphia, 1314 Locust Street Directions: www.librarycompany.org/about/access.htm William of Malmesbury, writing in the first quarter of the twelfth century, recounted a story, based on earlier sources, about Gerbert of Aurillac. According to William, Gerbert used astral science to create an oracular head. Yet the earlier sources that William quoted ascribed Gerbert's talking head to demonic, rather than celestial, magic. This important change reflects the introduction of texts on astral science and divination into western Europe, specifically into England in the early twelfth century, while pointing to contemporary concerns about the intellectual and moral legitimacy of divination. Elly Truitt is assistant professor in the History Department at Bryn Mawr College. She specializes in Medieval History and Science and Medicine.