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Position at Ca Foscari for CSR alumnus Ovanes Akopyan, from 1st July 2023

“A Long Way to a New Cosmology: Theories of Tides in Pre-Modern Thought”. This project offers the first comprehensive study of pre-modern engagement with the relatively neglected yet highly problematic natural phenomenon of tides. It argues that the flow and ebb effect was an essential component of cosmological discussions in premodern Europe and attracted the attention of all major scholars whom we currently associate with the so-called Scientific Revolution.

The competition amongst prominent thinkers involved in the study of astronomy and mathematics left its mark on a considerable number of works on tides, while the contesting solutions were believed to constitute a valid argument in favor of the respective cosmological theories. This also implies that the issue of determining the flow and ebb of water formed part of a larger discourse that went beyond strict mathematization of natural knowledge and reflected, on a more general level, a peculiar understanding of the cosmos and all it contains. Furthermore, the project makes an addition to a field of study that has been burgeoning in past years considering the current climate crisis. Several studies have recently devoted attention to pre-modern reflections on nature, especially with regard to various types of calamities. Despite not being considered a disaster because of their recurring and predictable character, tides were nonetheless seen as potentially devastating if not controlled and properly understood. Although inevitably put in relation with a discourse of the Flood, tidal accounts were largely devoid of metaphysical features, instead seeking out plausible mechanistic interpretations of the motion of water. At the same time, contrary to what has been suggested in scholarship, establishing the origin of tides was never regarded as a mere physico-mathematical exercise, but generally presented a matter of environmental concern. Thus, this project provides a synthetic account of pre-modern discourses of tides in their cosmological and environmental dimensions.

He will start on 1 July 2023, right after his stay at I Tatti where he is an Andrew W Mellon Fellow, and it will run for 24 months.

Thu 01 Jun 2023, 12:52

New Book. 'The Dynamics of Learning in Early Modern Italy: Arts and Medicine at the University of Bologna'

David Lines is pleased to announce the recent publication of his monograph on teaching and learning in early modern Bologna (Harvard University Press, 2023). The book examines both the context and content of teaching in arts and medicine: the humanities, philosophy and science, mathematics and astronomy, medicine, and theology, arguing for curricular flexibility and innovation between 1400 and 1750. Details at:

Thu 23 Feb 2023, 11:59

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