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Scott Trigg


Scott Trigg is a historian of science and religion, focusing on astronomy in the Islamic world and astronomers’ engagements with debates over the utility of human reason in understanding the cosmos. He is broadly interested in the study of nature from Antiquity to the early modern period and the cross-cultural transmission of science. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 2016, and has held fellowships at Wisconsin’s Institute for Research in the Humanities and the American University in Cairo CASA program. Before joining the HKU Society of Fellows in the Humanities, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the History and Philosophy of Science Program at the University of Notre Dame.

Trigg’s research explores the intellectual milieu of the 15th c. Samarqand observatory and its connections to Ottoman and European science. He argues that the apparently conservative form of premodern Islamic commentaries should not blind us to the possibility of originality, approaching the astronomical commentaries and other texts of this period as sites of active engagement between scholarly authorities, reflecting a sophisticated effort to critically assess and build upon models for celestial motion and other problems of theoretical astronomy. More broadly, he analyzes how debates among Islamic astronomers and theologians influenced the ways scientific hypotheses and models were understood, transmitted, and even rejected within commentaries. This research aims to deepen our understanding of Islamic intellectual life at a crucial moment in history as medieval and early modern societies across Eurasia came into greater contact.


Selected Publications

Review of Before Copernicus: The Cultures and Contexts of Scientific Learning in the Fifteenth Century, Rivka Feldhay and F. Jamil Ragep, eds., Nazariyat Journal for the History of Islamic Philosophy and Sciences 7, no. 1 (2021):219-225 [Turkish; English version forthcoming May 2021]

Scott Trigg, review of Jaghmīnī’s Mulakhkhaṣ: An Islamic Introduction to Ptolemaic Astronomy, by Sally Ragep, Isis 109, no. 3 (2018): 622-623.

Scott Trigg, “Optics and Geography in the Astronomical Commentaries of Fatḥallāh al-Shirwānī,” in Islamic Literature and Intellectual Life in Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century Anatolia, eds. A.C.S. Peacock and Sara Nur Yıldız, (Würzburg: Ergon Verlag, 2016): 361-382.

Recent Talks

“Visualizing the configuration (hayʾa): Thinking with images in Islamic astronomical manuscripts.” 

Geometrical reasoning and visual culture – shaping astronomy and other scientiae mediae

Observatoire de Paris, 18-20 January 2021.

“Text and Commentary in post-Classical Islamic Astronomy.” 

Current Trends in the History of Science in Muslim Societies: Debates, Approaches, and Stakes

New York University, 11- 13 December 2019.


“Physical Problems and Philosophical Questions in Islamic Astronomy”
Tsinghua Lecture Series on the History and Philosophy of Science, Tsinghua University, 19 April 2019

“Commentary, Criticism, and the Making of Knowledge in 15th c. Islamic Astronomy”
Centre for Humanities and Medicine / Society of Fellows in the Humanities, University of Hong Kong, 5 March 2019

“Visualizing the Configuration (hayʿa): Manuscript Images and Text in Islamic Astronomy Education and Research”
ND XIV History of Astronomy Workshop, University of Notre Dame, 19-22 June 2019


Research grant from the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz for 1 month research on medieval Islamic manuscripts at the Oriental Department, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library) in Germany (will be used in August 2019)

Course Design

Proposed a new History course for the 2020-21 year, “The Origins of Scientific Thought”

Proposed a new History course for 2019-20 year, “The Making of the Islamic World: The Middle East, 500-1500”


Organizing Committee, 14th Biennial History of Astronomy Workshop, University of Notre Dame, June 19-22, 2019

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