Rufus Refused Credit

Modest Medieval scholar's commentaries on Aristotle come to light after five hundred years

HUMANITIES, January/February 2012, Volume 33, Number 1

In the twenty-first century, not taking credit for your work—especially in academic circles—does not compute. But in the thirteenth century, particularly among Franciscans, intellectual pride was verboten. Even then, Englishman Richard Rufus may have been an extreme. In spite of a brilliant teaching career in both Paris and Oxford, he refused to cite his own lectures by name, this from a philosopher now widely credited with having provided the essential commentaries on Aristotle’s Metaphysics that enabled later scholars to lay the foundations of Western science.

Professor Rega Wood of Indiana University, with funding from NEH, is bringing Rufus center stage with the online and print publication of his commentaries that had been lost for over five hundred years. “If we want to learn how the Western university curriculum was shaped,” says Wood, “we need to know the works of Richard Rufus, works that were entirely lost between 1350 and 1950.” Perhaps now the Scholastic can rest on his laurels.