The Society for the History of Medieval Technology and Science
A society to promote, popularise and contribute to the study of European, Islamic, and Asian technology and science of the Middle Ages.

Past talks

The following papers have been presented by the society since its inauguration. Synopses (where available) were mostly edited by Geoffrey S. Hindley and can be reached from the links below.

1.Medieval Technology and the Third World: Jean Gimpel [February 1987] Synopsis 

2. An Introduction to Islamic and Medieval European Astrolabes: Francis Maddison [March 1987]  Synopsis

3. Medieval Medicine, Renaisance Art, and Modern Scientific Anatomy: Samuel Y. Edgerton [May 1987] Synopsis

4. The Medieval Forest: People and Technology: Roland Bechmann [October 1987] Synopsis 

5. Animal Powered Machinery: The Medieval Period: Kenneth Major [November 1987] Synopsis

6. Magnetic Theory: De Maricourt to Gilbert: Willem Hackmann [January 1988] Synopsis 

7. The First Builders of Ely Cathedral: Sarah Ferguson [March 1988]   Synopsis 

8. Men and Books, Clouds and Stars: The Mertonians: Keith Snedegar [April 1988]  Synopsis 

9. Medieval Bestiaries: What the zoologist can reveal: Wilma George [June 1988] Synopsis

10. Music and Technology in Western Civilisation 900-1900+: Geoffrey Hindley [October 1988] Synopsis

11. Robert Grosseteste and all that Revisited: Alistair Crombie [October 1988] Synopsis

12. The Turin Shroud as Medieval Artefact: Julian Henderson [February 1989]

13. An Iconographical Study of Sandglasses: David J. Boulin [March 1989]

14. The Process of Cultural Transmission in Anatomical Illustration: G. l. Russell [June 1989] Synopsis

15. Horse-breeding in the Middle Ages: R.H.C. Davis [October 1989]

16. Hemp: its culture and cultivation: John Hanson [February 1990]

17. Carpentry in Medieval Architecture: Julian Munby [March 1990] Synopsis

18. The Knight and the Blast Furnace: Alan Williams [May 1990] Synopsis

19. The Loss of Technical Skills at the End of the Roman Empire: Bryan Ward Perkins [October 1990]

20. Mystery and Mastery: A study of motivation in medieval society: Tina Stiefel [November 1990] Synopsis

21. Developments in Mechanical Clockwork in the Later Middle Ages: John Leopold [December 1990] Synopsis

22. Barbegal & the Roman Legacy of Water Power: Norman Smith [February 1991]

23. Tilting at Sawmills: Ausonius to Villard: Dennis Simms. Part published in "Water-driven saws, Ausonius, and the Authenticity of the Mosella," Technology and Culture 24 (October 1983): 635-43. "Water-driven Saws in Late Antiquity," Technology and Culture 26 (April 1985): 275-276. [February 1991] Synopsis

24. Some Developments in Woodworking Tools in the Later Middle Ages: Philip Walker [April 1991]

25. Medieval Portrait Sculpture, Likeness or Ideal: Attitudes to reality: Selby Whittingham [October 1991]

26. Fourteenth-century Medicine: Tony Hunt [November 1991]

27. Technical Genius in the Early Fifteenth Century: Alex Keller [March 1992] Synopsis

28. Techniques of Romanesque Champleve Enamel: Neil Stratford [June 1992] Synopsis

29. Medieval Mousetraps: David Drummond [October 1992] Synopsis

30. Islamic Globes: Emilie Savage-Smith [November 1992]. (based on material in: Emilie Savage-Smith, Islamicate Celestial Globes: Their History, Construction, and Use (Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology, no. 46), Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985.)

31. The Trebuchet: Its origins and dynamics: Donald Hill [February 1993] Synopsis

32. Sources of Medieval Technology with Special Attention to Byzantine and Islamic Contributions: Norman Smith [April 1993] Synopsis

33. Was There a Technological Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire?: Dennis Simms [April 1993]. Part published in "Archimedes the Engineer" History of Technology ed.G.Hollister-Short (1995) 17 (London 1996) 47-113. More in "Problemata Archimedea: An account and an analysis of some problems about Archimedes and his life, times and works and subsequent history": in final draft. Synopsis

34. Cranks and Cranklike Devices: Graham Hollister-Short [May 1993] Synopsis

35. Faith, Reason, and Number: Adelard of Bath and the Evolution of Scientific Method: Louis Cochrane [October 1993] Synopsis

36. Metiers and Craft Guilds: Hubert Stadler [March 1994]

37. The Mathematics and Technology of Medieval Cathedrals: Bruce Marsden [June 1994]

38. Filming the Middle Ages: James Burge [June 1994]

39. The Technology of Medieval Art: Ashok Roy [December 1994]

40. Metallurgy, Magic and Divination: Emilie Savage-Smith [April 1995, in memoriam Donald Hill].

41. Islamic Technology and Magic: Charles Burnett [April 1995, in memoriam Donald Hill]

42. Donald Hill and Islamic Water Clocks: Anthony Turner [April 1995, in memoriam Donald Hill]. Since published as 'Donald Hill and Arabic Water-Clocks' by A.J. Turner, in Antiquarian Horology, 2002, vol. 27, pages 206-13.

43. Metallurgy of Islamic Arms & Armour: Alan Williams [April 1995, in memoriam Donald Hill]

44. Alchemy and Art: Willem Hackmann [October 1995]

45. Alchemy and Aristotle: Cyril Barrett [October 1995]

46. The Keyboard: History of a Music Mechanism: Geoffrey Hindley [December 1995]

47. Plantagenet Business Women: Geoffrey Hindley [February 1996]

48. Map Making in Medieval Europe: From itinerary to survey: Paul Harvey [April 1996]

49. A Medieval Conundrum: Beer bottles, bombs, aeolipiles or mercury containers? Emilie Savage-Smith [October 1996]. (Published as: "Sphero-conical vessels: a typology of forms and functions", pp. 324-339 in Emilie Savage-Smith and Francis Maddison, SCIENCE, TOOLS & MAGIC (Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, vol. 12), London: Azimuth Editions and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).

50. Speculating on Spectacles: Aspects of innovation: Dennis Simms [December 1996]. Part published with D.J.Bryden, "True Spectacles: Approved of by the Royal Society," Annals of Science 50 (1993) 1-32.

51. Musical Archaeology: Margaret Bent [February 1997]

52. An Accurate Metric in Medieval and Ancient Mathematics: Christopher Leeming [April 1997]

53. The Cymbala: Technology out of proportion?: Helene La Rue [June 1997]

54. Villard de Honnecourt and Jean Gimpel: Roland Bechmann [October 1997, 10-Year Colloquium, in memoriam Jean Gimpel and Alistair Crombie]

55. Villard and the Cistercian Plan of Squares: Nigel Hiscock [October 1997, 10-Year Colloquium, in memoriam Jean Gimpel and Alistair Crombie]

56. Natural Philosophy and Techniques of Experimentation: Willem Hackmann [October 1997, 10-Year Colloquium, in memoriam Jean Gimpel and Alistair Crombie]

57. Stonehenge: Stars and Atoms: John North [October 1997, 10-Year Colloquium, in memoriam Jean Gimpel and Alistair Crombie]

58. Cuir Bouilli: The medieval technique of hardening leather: Esther Cameron [February 1998]

59. The technology of bronze casting in 15th-century Italy on the basis of documented orders of materials versus theoretical treatises: Tru Helms [April 1998]

60. Medieval Technology and Carpentry: The wagon and the origins of the coach: Julian Munby [June 1998]

61. Nuremburg House Books: Philip Walker [October 1998]

62. Archimedes in the Dark Ages: 500-1500: Dennis Simms [December 1998].

63. The Leper's Clapper in Medieval England: Mythology & Reality: Max Satchell [March 1999]

64. The Traditional Steel-working Industry in Iran: James Allan [June 1999]

65. Medieval Military Technology: Kelly de Vries {October 1999]

66. Medieval Woad and Indigo: Philip John and Jenny Balfour-Paul [December 1999]

67. Medieval Paint: Mark Clarke [March 2000]

68. The role of the crusader states in the revival of scientific leaning in 12th century Europe: Dr Charles Burnett [October 2000]

69. Technology of the Medieval Goldsmith: Susan La Niece [March 2001].

70. Japan Time: Clocks, the Zodiac and Picture Calendars: Timothy Clark [June 2001]

71. Making Money in Medieval England - the Evidence of Coining Dies: Dr. Barrie Cook, of The British Museum, London. [October 2001] Synopsis

72. Science and Art - Medieval Astrolabes and Their Representation in the Visual Arts: Dr. Koenraad van Cleempoel of the Henry van de Velde Institute, Antwerp [December 2001]

73. The Book of Curiosities: a recently discovered 11th century Arabic illustrated astronomical and geographical treatise: Dr. Jeremy Johns and Dr Emilie Savage-Smith of the Oriental Institute, Oxford [March 2002]

74. European Gunpowder 1250-1600: from Oriental Curiosity to Critical War Material: Dr. Bert Hall, of The Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto, Canada. [June 2002] Synopsis

75. Why Then and There? The Causes of, and Requirements for, Technology-based Economic Growth: a paper by Richard O A Brown. [October 2002]

76. The Star of Bethlehem: A Journey through Science and Art: An illustrated lecture by Dr Silke Ackermann, of the British Museum [December 2002]

77. Archaeological and Documentary Evidence for Medieval Glassworking: An illustrated lecture by Dr Justine Bayley, of the English Heritage Centre for Archaeology [March 2003]

78. The Eyes Have It: Thirteenth-century Eye Doctors and Nineteenth-century Ophthalmologists: Prof. Laurence Eldredge [June 2003]

79. Metal Distillation in the Medieval Period, an Early Application of Science to Industry: Dr Paul Craddock, of the Department of Scientific Research, British Museum [October 2003, as part of a joint meeting with the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry on Early Metallurgy ]

80. Crime Against Currency in 12th and 13th Century England. Counterfeiting of the Coinage: Dr Barrie Cook, Curator of Late Medieval, Early Modern and Modern Coins (to 1800) at the British Museum [October 2003, as part of a joint meeting with the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry on Early Metallurgy ]

81. The Creation of the Suit of Armour in Italy in the 14th Century: Dr Alan Williams, of the University of Reading [October 2003, as part of a joint meeting with the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry on Early Metallurgy ]

82. 'Document Based Speculations on Italian Bronze Casting Technology': Tru Helms [October 2003, as part of a joint meeting with the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry on Early Metallurgy ]

83. 'Chariots and Technology : Equipment, Techniques and Manoeuvres of the Byzantine Hippodrome': An illustrated lecture by Rex Winsbury [December 2003]

84. 'Early Paper Making in Europe: a Technical Revolution': An illustrated lecture by Dr Richard Hills, sometime President of the International Association of Paper Historians [March 2004]

85. 'Medieval Views of the Cosmos: Mapping Earth and Sky at the time of the Book of Curiosities': A gallery talk by Emilie Savage-Smith on the Bodleian Library exhibition: [June 2004]

86. 'An Introduction to the Astrolabes and Other Early Instruments in Oxford': by Dr Stephen Johnston, Assistant Keeper of The Museum of the History of Science. Oxford [June 2004]

87. 'The Early Printing Press': A talk (illustrated with a working model) by Alan May [October 2004]

88. 'Saltpetre, its Extraction and Purification: Medieval Techniques Revisited': A talk by John Edmonds. [December 2004]

87. 'Book Production in the Century Before Gutenberg': A talk by Pamela Robinson, Reader in Paleography, Institute of English Studies, University of London. [March 2005]

89. 'SHMTS: Medieval Antecedents': A talk by Geoffrey Hindley, Programme Secretary and sometime President of the Society. [June 2005]

90. 'The Craft of the Lute Maker': A talk illustrated with work-tools by Alan May, luthier. [October 2005]

91. 'The Coronation Robe of The Holy Roman Empire': A talk by John Edmunds. [December 2005]

92. 'The Great War Bow': A talk by Robert Hardy: Medieval Historian and Actor [March 2006]

93. 'Textiles and Indian Ocean Trade: Contacts and Transformations': A Talk by Dr. Ruth Barnes: Researcher and Exhibition Curator of the Ashmolean Inter-Faith Exhibition Service, Research Cataloguer of Islamic textiles, and an authority on Indian and Indonesian textiles. [June 2006]

94. 'Technical information in the notebooks of Maso di Bartolomeo and Benvenuto Cellini': A talk by Tru Helms: Independant Researcher. [October 2006]

95. 'Parchment: its Manufacture and Uses': A talk by Christopher Clarkson. [December 2006]

96. Magna Carta, a Medieval Triumph of P.R. - Some Practicalities at the Time, and Consequences for the Future': An illustrated talk by Geoffrey Hindley. [March 2007]

97. 'What Should the Modern World Learn from Medieval Farmers? ': A talk by Colin Tudge. [June 2007]

98. Metals and Money in the Middle Ages': A one-day symposium:-
Mining and the Medieval English Mints: by Martin Allen of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
* Coins and Medals of the Islamic World: by Luke Treadwell of the Ashmolean and Peter
Northover of Oxford University: Department of Materials.

* Making and Testing Anglo Saxon and Viking Coins (Demonstration): Gareth Williams of the British Museum.
* Mining and Money in Medieval Europe: by Peter Spufford, Professor Emeritus of the University of Cambridge. [October 2007]

99. 'The Historical Novelist at Work': A question and answer session in which Ken Follet talks about his new historical novel set in the 14th century: "World Without End". [December 2007]

100. 'Architectural Geometry in the Middle Ages ': An illustrated talk by Nigel Hiscock. [March 2008]

101. 'Medieval Stained Glass: Art and Technology': An illustrated talk by Sarah Crewe Brown, Trustee of the York Glaziers Trust and of the Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral, head of research for places of worship at English Heritage and author of books on Salisbury Cathedral and York Minster . [June 2008]

  • 102.'History and Mechanism of the Medieval Organ':' an illustrated presentation by Dominic Gwynn, of the Early English Organ Project. [October, 2008]

  • 103.'Leather-making in Oxfordshire': an illustrated talk by Alan Raistrick, who comes from a West Riding family of tanners, and is the author of numerous articles on the nineteenth-century leather industry; and is a member of the Archaeological Leather Group and the Medieval Dress and Textile Society. [June 2009]

  • 104.Indian Steel in Medieval European Swords: an illustrated talk by Alan Williams. [October 2009]

  • 105.Archimedes Redivivus: an illustrated talk by Dennis Simms [December 2009]

  • 106.The Octagon Tower and Lantern at Ely Cathedral: an illustrated talk by Michael White: author of "A Promise of Beauty - The Octagon at Ely Cathedral" [March 2010] >

  • 107.Mapping Paradise: an illustrated talk by Alessandro Scafi: author of Mapping Paradise. A History of Heaven on Earth [June 2010]

  • 108.Dividers, Axe and Plectrum: reconstruction of a 14th-century stringed- instrument using historically appropriate techniques: an illustrated presentation by Alice Margerum, Luthier and musical instrument researcher [October 2010]

  • 109.The Archaeology of Some Aspects of Medieval Metallurgy: Production and Consumption, c.1050-1600: an illustrated presentation by Geoff Egan, Museum of London, Finds Specialist [Dec. 2010]

  • 110.From Pliny to Polydor: - The Historiography of Invention in the Middle Ages: a talk by Dr. Shana Worthen, Instructor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Secretary of the Society [Feb 2011]

  • 111.Astronomy with gears: the Antikythera Mechanism and some precursors of Mediaeval Clockwork: an illustrated talk by Michael Wright, Honorary Research Associate, Imperial College. [June 2011]

  • 112.Medieval Spinning Wheels: a talk by Alan Raistrick ARCS, Independant Scholar [Oct. 2011]

  • 113.The new England Gallery at the Ashmolean, and issues related to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages: a talk by Dr. Eleanor Standley of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford [Dec. 2011]

  • 114.Illustrations and Diagrams in Arabic and Latin Scientific Works: A talk by Professor Charles Burnett, FBA [March 2012]

  • 115.The Evolution and uses of Mythical Animals: A talk by Dr Julia Cresswell, Treasurer to the Society. FBA [June 2012]

  • 116.Myths and about the medieval world: modern myths and misconceptions: a talk by Prof. Emilie Savage_Smith of hte Oriental Institute, and Co-President of the Society [London October 2012]

  • 117. All you wanted to know about the Astrolabe but never dared ask:  talk with practical demonstrations by Dr Stephen Johnston Assistant Keeper of the Museum of he History of Science, Oxford. (Oxford Dec. 20112)

  • 118.Technology as metaphor and context in the plays of  Shakespeare: a talk by Geoffrey Hindley, co-President of the Society. (London March 2013)

  • 119.Late Medieval and Early Modern Banqueting, Food and Music: a daylong seminar of papers.
    * "Wining and dining in late Tudor London: the accounts of the Salters Company": a talk by Katie       George, Archivist of the Salters' Company .
    * "Reconstructing the kitchens of Henry VII - Tudor technology in action", a talk by Marc Meltonville,  Food Historian/Archaeologist at Historic Royal Palaces.
    * "Lute-making", a talk with practical examples by Alan May, instrument-maker - and musical interlude.
    * Arab influences on use of sugar and honey in the late medieval kitchen: a talk and demonstration  Caroline Yeldham,  specialist  in medieval and Tudor cookery. [Oxford June 2013] 

  • 120."The Best Accounts of the Classes of Physicians": a talk by Prof. Emilie Savage-Smith, co-President of the Society. This was earliest world history of physicians: written in Arabic by Ibn Abi Usaybi'ah (d.1270). The talk covers also the preparation for this first translation - which is a new project founded by the Wellcome Trust.  (October 2013, London)

  • 121."Medieval and Modern Science: Robert Grosseteste (c.1170-1253) in Multi-Disciplinary Perspective":        A Talk by Dr Giles Gasper, Department of History and Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Durham University, and Dr Hannah Smithson, Department of Experimental Psychology and Pembroke College, University of Oxford (December 2013, Oxford)

  • 122. "Musical Instrument Making in Early Modern England". A talk illustrated with hardware and software by Michael Fleming of Oxford, Chairman of the Viola da Gamba Society. (March 2014, London

  • 123."The Archaeology of Arthur's Round Table at Windsor and elsewhere." A talk by Julian Munby of Oxford Archaeology (June 2014, Oxford)

  • 124."Hindu-Arabic Numerals: the Abacus and the Algorism. Arithmetic in the Tenth to Twelfth Centuries". A talk by Dr Charles Burnett (October 2014, London)

  • 125."Roger Bacon and the Frontiers of Science", a talk by James Burge (November 2014, Oxford)

  • 126."Experimental Jousting" a talk by Dr Alan Williams, of The Wallace Collection. (March 2015, London)

  • 127."The Great Barn at Harmondsworth" a tour and talk by Dr Justine Bayley, Secretary of the Friends of the Great Barn at Harmondsworth. (October 2015, London)

    128. "Regimens and Regicides: Élite physicians practising in the mediaeval Islamic world" : a talk by Alasdair Watson

  • 129. "The intersections of manuscript and print production for scientific works in the fifteenth century". -a talk by  Dr. Anke Timmermann

    130. "A history of brass from antiquity to 1800" a talk by Dr Vanda Morton

    131. "Astrological Understandings of the Body in Early Modern Britain" - a talk by Dr Kathryn Woods

    132. "Breastmilk: a healing and poisonous substance in late antiquity" - a talk by Dr Laurence Totelin.

    133. "Dicing with death: board games and medieval medicine" - a talk by by Daniel Burt.

    134. 'Forensic Fencing: What can damage on blades tell us about medieval swordsmanship?' - a talk by James Hester

    135. "Building in cob - a modern use of a medieval building technique" - a talk by Lutfi Radwan

    136 "Medieval patrons, builders, and the question of symbolism in the planning of abbeys and cathedrals." - a talk by Nigel Hiscock.

    137 "Urine gazing and pregnancy diagnosis, medieval to modern" - a talk by Isabel Davis.

    138 "Damascus Steel in Legend and Reality" - a talk by Alan Williams.

  • ++++++++++++++++++++++++++