Undergraduate Honors Thesis


Theory and Practice: An Experimental Approach to Detecting the Intercultural Accumulation of Knowledge in the Medieval Laboratory Public Deposited

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  • I examine emergent citation practices around the Medieval Mediterranean and their role in the intercultural transmission of proto-scientific technical knowledge through a multifaceted approach that combines history, literary analysis and experimental archaeology. The three primary sources examined are each alchemical compendiums written explicitly for the instruction of a student: al-Razi’s laboratory manual Book of Secrets from 10th century Persia, Gershon ben Shlomo’s 14th century Hebrew translation of Abufalah’s 11th century Mother of the King, and Constantine of Pisa’s 13th century Book of the Secrets of Alchemy. The results of the literary analysis reveal that Western historians of science should not rely entirely on citations to track the accumulation of scientific knowledge during this period if they wish to identify non-European contributions to science. While still somewhat useful, it is in fact the syntax, material culture and organizational structure of the manuscripts themselves betray their interrelationship more directly, as these elements were better-preserved across translations. By then following replicative procedures based in experimental archaeology, I demonstrate that technical knowledge was indeed accumulated and specialized between these sources via a comparison of their protective alchemical clays.      

Date Awarded
  • 2023-04-12
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Last Modified
  • 2023-04-24
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