Hear Ye, Hear Ye! A Medieval Science Quiz

Estimated Completion Time
2 min
Hear Ye, Hear Ye! A Medieval Science Quiz
Image: © Pasieka/Science Photo Library/Corbis

About This Quiz

Did anything vaguely scientific happen in the Middle Ages? Take this quiz to learn how we got through a dark period of history while trying to figure out how the sun was revolving around us, anyway.
Why do historians think that the folks in the Middle Ages got a bad rap for being uninterested in science and learning?
Nobody invented anything.
Journals from medieval times reveal they were afraid of science.
Leaders of the Enlightenment era were dismissive of the fundamental discoveries that took place in medieval times.
The Enlightenment era prided itself on serious education and discovery -- at the expense of the earlier medieval times, which they dismissed as superstitious and over-religious.

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What equine invention was NOT invented during medieval times?
horseshoe
saddle
The saddle was invented a bit earlier, but the Middles Ages did bring us the horseshoe and collar to harness horsepower.
horse collar

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What everyday object was first invented in the medieval period?
the broom
the clock
The mechanical clock was a medieval invention and used an escapement -- a balance wheel or pendulum that makes the hands tick forward. Much to Captain Hook's dismay.
the dustpan

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What was a broad role of science in medieval culture?
to treat illness or injury
to oppress women
to understand God's works
The Middle Ages were really religious; science was generally pursued to explain the nature that God created.

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What great medieval scientist was NOT a Catholic bishop?
Albert the Great (aka Albertus Magnus)
Nicholas Oresme
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas was certainly in the Catholic church, but he never made bishop.

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What medieval thinker was the first to write down a recipe for gunpowder?
William of Ockham
Avenzoar (aka Ibn Zuhr)
Roger Bacon
We have Bacon to thank for Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang."

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While we usually think of Europe when we talk about medieval times, what Islamic norm was first introduced to the rest of the world in the Middle Ages?
the Dewey Decimal system
the scientific method
Arabic numeral system
The Arabic numeral system was spread to the world by the otherwise-awful Crusades.

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What source of learning was introduced in the Middle Ages?
universities
During this period, universities popped up after people started thinking it might be a good idea to have a place where smart folks lectured.
libraries
museums

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What crop rotation system was used during the Middle Ages?
Nobody farmed in medieval times.
the Wheat Matrix
three-field system
Leaving one-third of the field fallow while planting fall and spring crops on the other two allowed for far more productive harvests than the old two-field system.

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What medieval farming invention was a lifesaver for those trying to grow crops in dense, clay soils?
sprinkler systems
the heavy plow
The heavy plow allowed farmers to dig much deeper into soils -- a very good thing for soils that needed extra oomph.
pesticides

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Avenzoar was a Muslim physician. What procedure did he first perform experimentally?
appendix removal
hand amputation
tracheotomy
Avenzoar was the first to try a tracheotomy. His subject? A goat.

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Avenzoar wasn't the only trailblazing physician in the Middle Ages. What did Muslim surgeon Al-Zahrawi bring to the surgery table?
forceps
syringe
both
Be glad Al-Zahrawi invented forceps to make birth easier. You can be a little annoyed with him, though, every time you get a shot.

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What invention -- somewhat surprisingly -- came after the invention of the mechanical clock?
the hourglass
That's right, the hourglass actually showed up around the 14th century. (But there are some legends that claim it was invented in the eighth century by a French monk.)
the sundial
the water clock

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People in the Middle Ages loved their iron. What was NOT a medieval invention to make iron production much easier?
blast furnace
water wheel
wheelbarrow
The blast furnace created much more intense heat for iron production, and water wheels provided the energy to pump the air needed for the blast.

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Readers can thank the Middle Ages for this invention:
glasses
If you're not squinting to read this, perhaps it's because you are harnessing the awesome medieval power of reading glasses.
bookmarks
paperbacks

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What medieval creation changed the history of art?
oil paint
Oil paint was first used in the Middle Ages, and it made the Mona Lisa smile.
canvas
paintbrushes

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What famous razor was first invented in the Middle Ages?
the safety blade
Ockham's
"The simplest explanation is the most likely," said William of Ockham, presumably in the midst of a shave one day in the Middle Ages.
the straight blade

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Let's be fair: There was some science in the medieval ages that was straight-up bunk. What was one reason some in the Middle Ages pursued the field of alchemy?
They wanted to get fabulously wealthy by learning to turn lead into gold.
They wanted to live forever.
both
By figuring out a way to transmute metals, early alchemists thought they might find the key to riches -- or the cure for disease. Instead, they helped to discover chemistry.

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The plague brought us what restrictive medical practice?
cremation
quarantine
To protect coastal cities from epidemics, the Italians asked for quaranta giorni: forty days in harbor before disembarking.
bloodletting

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Middle-schoolers have no reason to thank Middle-Agers. What medieval discovery haunts their days?
algebra
Al-Khwarizmi was a Persian mathematician around the turn of the ninth century whose work was the basis for the concepts of algebra. Blame him for all those pop quizzes.
coed mixers
gym class

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You Got:
/20
© Pasieka/Science Photo Library/Corbis
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