Science and Progress
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The First Universities
The development of Western Civilization has often been characterized by some golden moments when a number of factors came together to make possible a burst of culture and humanism. These bursts are often called "renaissances." The birth of universities took place during one of this periods, what is called the "Twelfth Century Renaissance", which actually began in the late eleventh century.
Cultural life gradually returned during the middle ages, as important classical documents were rediscovered. Some medieval educational centers gradually excelled due to the leadership of individual bishops or schoolmasters. One of the most important of these centers was at Paris, which consisted of several schools. After the middle of the twelfth century, the number of masters and students in Paris required some sort of organization. The masters took the lead on this, and some regulations were established on curriculum and the length of study. A similar development took place at Bologna, another important urban center, except that at Bologna the students took the leadership. The foundation date of the University of Oxford has not been established, but it acquired prominence after 1167. John of Salisbury (1116-1180), who studied at Paris, is very appreciative of his education, John dwells on the value of preserved and transmitted knowledge:
The very thing which several men have expended their whole lives in investigating, and which they have labored and sweated in discovering, can now be quickly and easily learned by one person. Our own generation enjoys the legacy bequeathed to it by that which preceded it. We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our natural ability, but because we are supported by the [mental] strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers.
And he continues with a well known comment from another one of his teachers: "Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision of greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature." 
The art of working with stones was preserved and cultivated throughout the Middle Ages. The construction demand caused by economic progress and the increasing appreciation of the artistic aspects of building design encouraged the development of the trade of the master masons. Architecture and engineering would not become a truly scientific professions for several centuries, but it is clear that in building the great Gothic cathedrals, the master masons took a significant step in the direction of professionalism during the middle ages.
The Branches of Knowledge
Vives provides a detailed treatment of some of the branches of knowledge and professions of his time and their value to society, including the humanities, social sciences, medicine and law:
For all the humanities come under the head of wisdom; from it spring those sciences which the Greeks called Ethics, Economics, and Politics. These are subjects which the human intellect and the whole nature of man with impulses aroused by the Creator, necessarily found out and built up into organized knowledge. If they were excluded entirely, man would not live at all, and if removed in part he would live not a human life, but the life of a wild beast or a savage.
Let us now treat of medicine. This art has power of life and death over the bodies of men. To it a power is entrusted greater than any King or Emperor has ever possessed. Wherefore God and man demand that the physician himself should perform diligent work; they assert and require that he shall treat as wisely and affectionately as possible, those matters which are assigned to his good faith and authority!
The States and assemblies of men are all bound together by justice as if by glue. For justice is the preserver, and, as it were, the soul of all human society…Those who defend and interpret the laws, which have already been ordained and accepted, are called jurisconsults... it is the function and office of a true and thorough jurisconsult to explain the sense and spirit of laws, so as to discover the justice that is present in each law...
 John of Salisbury, The Metalogicon (Westport, CO: Greenwood Press, 1955), 36.
 Richard C. Dales, The Intellectual Life of Western Europe in the Middle Ages, 151-152.
 Juan Luis Vives, "The Transmission of Knowledge" in Vives: On Education, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1913), 283-284.
 Ibid., 20.
 Ibid., 15.
 Ibid., 216.
 Ibid., 261-262.