Herman Dalmatin, linguist, philosopher and pioneer of European science

In an age when clergymen were the only ones sufficiently educated to advance natural science and philosophy, a new movement emerged among Western and Central Europeans, in which education and enlightenment were passionately cultivated by laymen and clergymen alike. One scholar, who brought esteem both to himself and his people, was Herman Dalmatin of central Istria.

Herman Dalmatin (born c.1110) came from a religious Croatian family in central Istria and was educated during his youth by Benedictine monks. During his early twenties he moved to France and continued his education, studying natural science and philosophy at the Cathedral of Chartres near Paris. During this time he attended lectures of the famous Thierry de Chartres. Shortly thereafter (1134) he embarked on a four-year journey of discovery with English colleague and friend Robert of Ketton, which took him through France, the city-states of Northern Italy, the Croatian Kingdom, the Byzantine Empire and the Middle East.

The pair based themselves in Damascus where they mastered the Arabic language and studied Arabian science and philosophy. Herman was captivated by Arabian contributions in the fields of mathematics and astrology and also took a great interest in the science of other Eastern nations such as India. In 1138, he returned to Europe, fraternising with, and influencing some of the greatest scholars of the time, including Rudolf of Bruges, William of Conches, Domingo Gonzales and Daniel of Morley.

Using the knowledge he attained in Chartres and utilising numerous Eastern sources, he wrote over 20 original books and translations. His most significant work is the famous De essentiis, written in 1143, which introduced new scientific and philosophical concepts to Europe (particularly in the fields of astronomy and physics). Other works include translations of important books from Arabic to Latin (including Arabic translations of ancient Greek works), introducing European scholars to a wealth of information previously unavailable. Some of these include Abu Mashar's Introductorium in astronomiam, Sahl ibn Bishr's Sextus astronomiae liber and Ptolemy's Planisphera.

Herman is honoured both by scientists and historians, not only as the first intermediary between European and Arabic intellectuals, but as one of the greatest scientists of the Middle Ages. His works remained influential for many centuries afterwards. Moreover, his achievements inspired numerous Croats to follow his footsteps, marking a major impetus in the advancement of natural science and education within Croatia.

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