When you think of the Middle Ages, chances are you picture gallant knights sitting astride brilliant destriers galloping through a sea of plagues, ignorance, and filth. And you can hardly be blamed for that, when everything from the movies you watch to your high school history teacher (who was mainly the football coach) has told you that ...
6 Scientific Progress Was Dead
They call it the Dark Ages for a reason. Any scientist who dared to actually study the universe would be shut down by the Catholic church, which thought all that bullshit was immoral and that the Bible was all the learnin' anybody could possibly need. They even thought the Earth was flat, for crying out loud.
"No, we can't cross the ocean there, don't you see that sea monster in the way?"
Aside from the fact that, as we've already explained, most people in the Middle Ages did not think the Earth was flat, the church wasn't responsible for killing science -- to the contrary, it was largely responsible for saving it.
After the barbarians invaded Europe and Rome went the way of the dinosaurs, the Catholic church was the last remaining aspect of Roman culture in Western Europe. The church went about setting up monasteries across Europe, and along with the monks came the monks' massive libraries. Monks were just about the only educated people in the early Middle Ages, and pretty much everything we know about this entire time period was written by them.
"Look, the monks' scroll clearly says that all monks had 12-inch dongs, so it must be true."
As time went on, the church stepped it up a notch and started establishing universities to foster the preservation of knowledge. You may have heard of a few of them: Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Paris (not to mention pretty much every other top school in Europe). At these universities, students studied more than most college kids do today, with an average bachelor's degree taking up to seven years to earn, and a master's or doctorate taking several more. The universities were also big on translation, having successfully translated into Latin guys like Aristotle and Plato, which effectively made the Renaissance possible. All of this despite the fact that beer bong technology was still in its infancy.
Around the same time as universities were popping up all over Europe, the Crusades were bringing Europeans into contact with advanced Muslim ideas of science and technology. Ideas like the compass and the astrolabe came to the West via Muslim Spain and came in handy during the later Age of Exploration. Italian merchants came back from trading in North Africa and gave us another innovation: Arabic numerals.
Pfft, like people are going to want to learn a whole other set of characters.
Medicine also made massive advances thanks to the university system. Contrary to popular belief, dissection of corpses was actually fine and dandy with the church, and medieval universities often did it in the basement (OK, so maybe it wasn't totally fine and dandy). By the 14th century, there were functional hospitals, and doctors had learned how to use antiseptic when lopping off people's body parts.
And that's a good thing, because everybody was encrusted in filth back then, right? Well, about that ...