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Dr Seb Falk

Dr Seb Falk

Rosamund Chambers Research Fellow, Girton College

Seb Falk is available for consultancy.

Girton College
Huntingdon Road

Cambridge CB3 0JG


I studied History and Spanish at Oxford and worked in the UK Civil Service, and as a teacher in the UK and Canada, before coming to Cambridge to study for an MPhil (2012) and PhD (2016).  My research investigates the mathematical sciences in the late middle ages.  I am a BBC New Generation Thinker.

Subject groups/Research projects

Ancient and Medieval History:

Departments and Institutes

Girton College:

Research Interests

I research the history of science in the later middle ages.  I am particularly interested in how the mathematical sciences – especially astronomy – were studied and practised outside the universities, by non-experts.

I completed my PhD, entitled Improving Instruments: Equatoria, Astrolabes, and the Practices of Monastic Astronomy in Late Medieval England, in 2016.  In my thesis I examined the ways that astronomical instruments were used for practical, didactic and display purposes; I also examined the relationships between instruments, the texts describing them, and the numerical tables often essential for their construction or use.

My current research project seeks to survey the sciences practised in late medieval monasteries, and to explore how these relate to, and contrast with, the scientific studies of university scholars.  Among other outputs, I am writing a book, The Light Ages, for publication in spring 2020.


I have lectured for Part I Paper 15 (European History, 1200-1520), as well as History of Science Part II Paper 1 (Early Science and Medicine).

I supervise for History of Science Part IB (History of Science and Medicine: 1500-present), and Part II Paper 1 (Early Science and Medicine).  I have also taught students taking Part I English (English Literature and its Contexts 1300-1550) and Part II History (Historical Argument and Practice).

Other Professional Activities

"John Gower, the Forgotten Medieval Poet", The Essay, broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 28 June 2018

"Monks, Models and Medieval Time", The Essay, broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 20 March 2017


  • Medieval British History
  • Economic, Social History

Key Publications

‘What’s on the back of an astrolabe? Astrolabes as supports for planetary calculators’, in Heaven and Earth United: Instruments in Astrological Contexts, ed. Richard Dunn, Silke Ackermann and Giorgio Strano (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 24-41.

"A Merton College Equatorium: Text, Translation, Commentary", SCIAMVS 17 (2016), 121-159.

"Learning Medieval Astronomy through Tables: The Case of the Equatorie of the Planetis", Centaurus 58 (2016), 6-25.

"The scholar as craftsman: Derek de Solla Price and the reconstruction of a medieval instrument", Notes and Records 68 (2014), 111-134.

Other Publications

Selected recent conference papers and public lectures

"Astronomical mnemonics in late medieval monasteries", International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 2018

"Learning astronomy in late medieval monasteries", Ecclesiastical History Society Meeting, 2018

"'Now herkne the philosophie': Gower’s Astronomy", John Gower Society and Early Book Society Congress, Durham, 2017

"Astronomy and religion in late medieval England", International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science, Prague, 2016