Albertus Magnus' 'On Natural Business'

The oldest text in the Met Office's archives comes from Saint Albertus Magnus, a German Bishop and Philosopher who wrote and thought widely about all aspects of theology and philosophy, particularly natural philosophy, in the 13th century.

 Albertus Magnus was one of the most famous precursors of modern science, working to empirically explain not only the natural sciences but also logic, mathematics, ethics, politics and metaphysics. As a result Albertus was canonized in 1931 before being declared the patron saint of natural sciences in 1941.

In his book 'De Negotio Naturali', which translates as 'On Natural Business', he wrote about the weather and laid the foundations for the first correct theory of rainbow formation, attributing individual raindrops a role in the bow's formation. In our archive we have a hand written, illuminated manuscript of 'De Negotio Naturali' dating from approximately 1290. This is the oldest item we have in our collection.

The Compendium Alberti Magni De Negotio Naturali c. 1290 The Compendium Alberti Magni De Negotio Naturali c. 1290 A page from the hand written, illuminated manuscript of De Negotio Naturali A page from the hand written, illuminated manuscript of De Negotio Naturali

Albertus showed an understanding of reflection and refraction, calling them both 'refractio', having studied the reflection of light through the use of mirrors and the refraction properties of certain crystals. He hypothesised that the speed of light was infinite and determined that the Milky Way was just an immense assembly of stars. Considering the night sky, Albertus also argued that the figures on the moon were not reflections of the Earth's seas and mountains and were instead configurations on the moon's surface.

In an age when the belief in the Bible was absolute, Albertus presented impressive forward thinking, using his astute observations of nature and comprehensive knowledge to advocate the peaceful coexistence of science and religion.

Rainbow formation Rainbow formation The Milky Way's stars The Milky Way's stars The moon's surface The moon's surface

The National Meteorological Archive is home to thousands upon thousands of records including the Daily Weather Report going back to 1860, ships logs, historical charts, weather diaries and more

Last updated: 4 June 2015

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