2021 Shortlist for the Hughes Prize
The Middle Ages were a time of wonder. They gave us the first universities, the first eyeglasses and the first mechanical clocks as medieval thinkers sought to understand the world around them, from the passing of the seasons to the stars in the sky.
In this book, we walk the path of medieval science with a real-life guide, a fourteenth-century monk named John of Westwyk - inventor, astrologer, crusader - who was educated in England's grandest monastery and exiled to a clifftop priory. Following the traces of his life, we learn to see the natural world through Brother John's eyes: navigating by the stars, multiplying Roman numerals, curing disease and telling the time with an astrolabe.
We travel the length and breadth of England, from Saint Albans to Tynemouth, and venture far beyond the shores of Britain. On our way, we encounter a remarkable cast of characters: the clock-building English abbot with leprosy, the French craftsman-turned-spy and the Persian polymath who founded the world's most advanced observatory.
An enthralling story of the struggles and successes of an ordinary man and an extraordinary time, The Light Ages conjures up a vivid picture of the medieval world as we have never seen it before.
Seb Falk is a historian, teacher, broadcaster and historical consultant. In 2016 he was named a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker.
Seb teaches medieval history and history of science at Cambridge University, where he was a Fellow of Girton College from 2016 to 2019.
He specialises in the history of astronomy, navigation and mathematics - theories and technologies - from their ancient origins to modern developments.