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Ulrich of Strasbourg (or Ulricus De Argentina or Ulrich Engelberti)


(b. early thirteenth century; d. Paris, ca. 1278)

natural philosophy.

A student of Albertus Magnus at Cologne (1248–1254), Ulrich became his devoted disciple. He lectured at Strasbourg for many years before serving as provincial of the German Dominicans from 1272 to 1277, when he was sent to Paris to lecture on Peter Lombard’s Sentences and to obtain the degree of master; but he died shortly after arriving there.

Among Ulrich’s writings are a lost treatise on meteors, a commentary on the Sentences, and his chief work, the Summa de summo bono (“A Summary Concerning the Supreme Good”), projected for eight books but extant only to the fifth treatise of the sixth book. This is a Neoplatonic work that is metaphysical in tone and is heavily indebted to Arab thought. Duhem translated and analyzed portions concerned with medieval astronomy and found that they are largely derived from Albertus Magnus. For example, Ulrich cited Ptolemy and a spurious work of Alpetragius (al-Bitrūjī) Denys the Carthusian (1402–1471) attempted to correct the latter reference, noting that it should be attributed to al-Fārābī (see Duhem, p. 360). Ulrich probably used only Albertus’ report of their teachings. Ulrich held that there are ten celestial spheres, and was mainly concerned with linking them to intelligences as movers, and with explaining the characteristics of the various planets in terms of the primary qualities associated with their spheres. He mentioned the precession of the equinoxes incidentally as being one degree each hundred years, but otherwise adduced no astronomical data; he seems not to have been himself an observer of the heavens. Ulrich’s importance for medieval science would seem to reside in the witness he provides to the all-pervading influence of Albertus Magnus as an authority, on the Continent at least, in matters scientific.


Étienne Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York-London, 1955), 431–433, 751–753, references the edited portions of Ulrich’s Summa, summarizes its teaching, and provides a guide to bibliography. See also Pierre Duhem, Le systéme du monde, III (Paris, 1915; repr. 1958). 358–363; and Caroline Putnam, “Ulrich of Strasbourg and the Aristotelian Causes,” in Studies in Philosophy and the History of Philosophy, 1 (1961), 139–159.

William A. Wallace, O.P.

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