Main Works
- Kants Qualitätskategorien, 1930
- Zwei Untersuchungen zur nachscholastischen Philosophie. Die Mechanisierung des Weltbildes im 17. Jahrhundert, 1938
- Studien zur Naturphilosophie der Spätscholastik, 5 vols., 1949
- Codices Burghesiani Bibliothecae Vaticanae (ed.), 1952
- Codices Vaticani Latini. Codices 2118-2192 (ed.), 1961
- Ausgehendes Mittelalter. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Geistesgeschichte des 14. Jahrhunderts, 3 vols., 1964
Anneliese Maier, daughter of philosopher Heinrich Maier (1876-1933), studied physics and mathematics from 1923 and philosophy in Berlin and Zurich from 1926. In 1930 she received her PhD (Dr. phil.) from the University of Berlin with a dissertation on Kants Qualitätskategorien [Kant's categories of quality]. Maier worked on the Leibniz-Edition of the Prussian Academy of Sciences until 1936 and, in the same year, went to live in Rome. With a scholarship from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [German Research Foundation] she worked on Scholastic natural philosophy at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Kulturwissenschaften in Rome (now Bibliotheca Hertziana). She converted to catholicism in 1943. From 1945 she was employed as a researcher at the Bibliotheca Vaticana where she continued her work on natural philosophy. Anneliese Maier received an honorary title as German "professor" in 1951; she was a corresponding member of the academies of sciences in Mainz (1949), Goettingen (1962) and Munich (1966).
With a major five-volume study (Studien zur Naturphilosophie der Spätscholastik [Studies on late scholastic Natural Philosophy]) based on handwritten and printed sources of the late medieval period Maier has outlined in great detail the prehistory of modern scientific thought: she clarified formerly unknown or misinterpreted conceptual relations within the early developments of natural philosophy. Maier depicted the history of the natural sciences in the Christian Western world as a gradual undermining of Aristotelianism.
As a historian of medieval science, Anneliese Maier was both a successor to Pierre Duhem (1861 – 1916) and one of his most important critics. In many works she argued with the theories of the famous French historian of science: she found that his presentation of scholastic problems treated them too much like modern problems. Not unlike Duhem, however, Maier focused much of her early research on the study of Galileo Galilei and his forerunners (= vol. 1 of her Studien zur Naturphilosophie der Spätscholastik) seeking to reconstruct the background of Galileo's ideas. She granted Duhem the assumption that the fourteenth-century conception of nature was an early and preparatory stage for classical physics, but she saw him interpreting the scholastic doctrines too often in a modern way and reading too much into them.
In the other volumes of her Studien zur Naturphilosophie der Spätscholastik Maier treats the problem of intensive size and the theory of impetus (vol. 2), the terms of material substance and gravitation (vol. 3), the metaphysical background of medieval natural philosophy (vol. 4) and the relation of philosophy and mathematics (vol. 5). In this last volume Maier investigates late medieval commentaries on Aristotle's Physics showing the range of ideas scholars put forward on Aristotle's views of motion. She noticed more differences than similarities between Aristotle and his commentators and identified the pre-history of some important concepts of modern scientific thought such as motion, time, form, quantity, infinity and continuity.
Maier contributed most notably to the modern understanding of Thomas Bradwardine (1295-1349). She created a new interest in Bradwardine and the historical development of the use of mathematical functions in physics. She included descriptions of Bradwardine's 'function' in medieval form along with a new interpretation of her own.
Among historians of medieval science, Maier was the first to stress the importance of medieval natural philosophy. She started out applying a retrospective point of view, much like Duhem, relating the concepts of modern science to their medieval antecedents. Later on, she tried to argue for a more authentically medieval point of view. Maier found enough insight and knowledge in the doctrines of late scholasticism which would allow us to make a connection to future physics, even if these doctrines do not constitute an antecedent. Her Codices Burghesiani Bibliothecae Vaticanae and Codices Vaticani Latini - Codices 2118-2192 arose mainly from bibliographical interest and included the study of manuscripts of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas.
Maier's approach to medieval science can be compared with that of Alexandre Koyré (1882-1964) on seventeenth-century physics. Both historians began their careers in the history of philosophy, and both took great interest in the broader context of scientific ideas, demonstrating how enlightening such a broader context can be.
Anneliese Maier sought to understand late scholastic thought on its own terms. Historians before her had interpreted the achievements of medieval science in terms of modern ideas, translating the relevant sources into the language of the twentieth century. In contrast, Maier's books are filled with long Latin passages from the sources themselves. She achieved a profound understanding of medieval texts that surpassed the achievement of any predecessor. She turned her readers to the vocabulary and terminology of medieval texts. Like Duhem, Maier used philosophical and theological as well as scientific writings as sources for her histories, but Maier paid greater attention to the philosophical dimension. Thus, in one of her more detailed studies on the ontological status of impetus, she uncovers the ontology behind the 'remission of forms and motion' in general. Maier researched in detail a broad range of concepts in medieval science. The close focus on these topics makes her research important even beyond the confines of historical studies in early science.
Anneliese Maier's studies had their influence within the history of science and its view of the continuity between medieval and modern science. Seven essays from Maier's writings have been translated into English only in 1982: On the Threshold of Exact Science (ed. Steven D. Sargent).