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Robert Grosseteste looks at light

In the Anglican Calendar, today is the feast day of Robert Grosseteste, a poor boy whose brains and curiosity and energy take him to school in Lincoln. Adam of Wigford pays his way.

Robert Grosseteste reads Aristotle, and is excited by facts that can be proved. He breaks with the conventional ideas of the time by teaching that a mathematical structure underlies the natural world. He writes about the scientific properties of light.

In our time, religion and science have seemed opposed. Robert Grosseteste is an early and remarkable example of a scientist who believed that God wanted us to understand his creation scientifically.

When Grosseteste is in his forties, in 1215, the Church and the knight barons force King John to sign Magna Carta. History has so many misty gaps, we don't know if Robert Grosseteste was with them, on horseback in the lush meadow of Runnymede.

What we do know is that Grosseteste helped to propel the cause of liberty by advocating just government against tyranny. He was a friend of Simon de Montfort, who risked his life for just law against tyranny, and held the first Parliament in 1265.

Robert Grosseteste saw justice, nature and mathematics as one luminous whole. He was the teacher of "Dr. Wonderful", who established experimentation as a scientific method.