Honorary doctorate for Warburg professor

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Charles Burnett, professor of the history of Islamic influences in Europe at the Warburg Institute, has been awarded an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. The honour recognises his contribution to the knowledge of the transmission of Arabic sciences and philosophy into the medieval Latin tradition.

Professor Burnett has devoted his academic life to documenting, editing and translating scientific and philosophical texts that were translated into Latin in the Middle Ages, especially those that were originally written in Arabic.

Collections of his key articles have appeared under the titles Magic and Divination in the Middle Ages: Texts and Techniques in the Islamic and Christian WorldsArabic into Latin in the Middle Ages: The Translators and their Intellectual and Social Context, and Numerals and Arithmetic in the Middle Ages.

Ongoing projects include the editions of the Arabic and Latin versions (together with an English translation) of the major astrological works of Abu Ma'shar (with Keiji Yamamoto), and the cataloguing of all the medieval Latin translations of texts on astronomy and astrology (with David Juste). Other interests include the Jesuit Latin culture in 16-century Japan and medieval music theory and practice.

Commenting on his honorary doctorate and his exceptional ability to collaborate with others, Marie Demker, dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Gothenburg, said his ties with the University of Gothenburg, as well as other Nordic universities, reflect an exceptional collegial attitude to the international scholarly community. ‘Professor Burnett’s research on translation and historical dissemination of scientific texts shows how dependent modern science is on other cultures and languages.’  

His previous appointments and distinctions include visiting professor at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University, distinguished visiting professor in medieval studies, University of California in Berkeley, and the W. John Bennett Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto. He is a British Academy Fellow, Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, and Fellow of the International Society for the History of Science.

Professor Burnett, who joined Warburg at the School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, in 1985, will collect his honorary degree at the Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre on 19 October.  

‘It was an unexpected honour to receive this award,’ said Professor Burnett. ‘I have for a long time admired the high quality of medieval philosophy and philology in Scandinavian universities, and I am pleased to be associated with this scholarship.’