Albertus Magnus, Medieval Philosopher

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Science History Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Woodcut, 1496. Albertus sits at a lectern, he holds a rod in one hand while instructing four pupils who are seated on low stools before him. Albertus Magnus (1193/1206-1280) was a Dominican friar and bishop who believed in the peaceful coexistence of science and religion. Albertus was the first to comment on all of the writings of Aristotle, making them accessible for wider academic debate. He also studied and commented on the teachings of Muslim academics, notably Avicenna and Averroes. Albertus Magnus was the first scholar to apply Aristotle's philosophy to Christian thought. He was ahead of his time in his attitude towards science. He not only studied science from books, but observed and experimented with nature and he took from Aristotle the view that scientific method had to be appropriate to the objects of the scientific discipline at hand. His writings, collected in 1899, went to thirty-eight volumes. These displayed his prolific habits and literally encyclopedic knowledge of topics such as logic, theology, botany, geography, astronomy, astrology, mineralogy, chemistry, zoology, physiology, phrenology and others; all of which were the result of logic and observation. He defended the orthodoxy of his former pupil, Thomas Aquinas, whose death in 1274 caused him great sorrow. After suffering a collapse of health in 1278, he died in 1280. The Catholic Church honors him as a Doctor of the Church (one of only 34).

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