Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

The Pope who devised an abacus

Catholic World News - January 10, 2011

In an interview with Religion Dispatches, Nancy Marie Brown, author of The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages, discusses the achievements of Pope Sylvester II, who reigned from 999 to 1003 and, in her words, “devised an abacus, or counting board, that mimics the algorithms we use today for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.” Brown also calls Pope Sylvester II “the leading mathematician and astronomer of his day.”

“The popular picture of the Dark Ages is wrong,” says Brown. “The earth wasn’t flat. People weren’t terrified that the world would end at midnight on December 31, 999. Christians did not believe Muslims and Jews were the enemy. The Church wasn’t anti-science. In the Dark Ages, contrary to what most people think, science was central to the lives of monks, kings, emperors, and even popes.’

Additional sources for this story
Some links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our August expenses ($22,408 to go):
$35,000.00 $12,592.44
64% 36%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 1 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: stpetric - Jan. 10, 2011 7:11 PM ET USA

    She's absolutely right, but she's got an uphill battle to overcome the myth of the "dark" ages. It's hard to call "dark" an age that gave us Dante, Chartres, and the university!

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

As Catholic News Unfolds... 16 hours ago
An Iraqi archbishop's warning to the West 17 hours ago
The cause for beatification of Archbishop Romero: BBC botched the story 22 hours ago
Church Fathers: The Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas August 19
It is time to revoke the Catholic status of the LCWR August 18

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
‘A real via crucis’: Pope Francis, patriarch plead on behalf of Iraq’s Christians CWN - August 8
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians in flight as Islamic State advances CWN - August 8