Spring 2013 Friends LEcture Series

Visualising Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

Seeing at One Glance: The Synoptic Image in Early Modern Science

Wednesday, 13 March 2013 (Note date)

17.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Speaker(s): Professor Lorraine Daston (Director, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin; and Visiting Professor,  Committee of Social Thought, University of Chicago)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Professor Joanna Woodall with Dr Eric Jorink

New practices of continuous and collective observation in early modern Europe posed a new challenge: how to synthesize copious amounts of data in digestible and perspicuous form? Solutions ranged from the humanist techniques of collation and compendia, a response to the analogous flood of books issuing forth from printing presses, to innovative visual techniques that attempted to compress many observations into a single image that could be grasped at a glance. The table, the composite, and the idealization -- applied to botany, astronomy, weather-watching, and other observational sciences -- aimed to compress reams of information into a compact object of perception from which regularities and essences could be surveyed all at once, in an act of meta-perception that approximated the intuitions of angels.

Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin and Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. Her recent publications include (with Peter Galison), Objectivity (2007), Wunder, Beweise und Tatsachen: Zur Geschichte der Rationalität (2001), and (co-edited with Elizabeth Lunbeck), Histories of Scientific Observation (2011), as well as essays on the history of  scientific facts, objectivity, curiosity, probability, and attention which have appeared in various journals and collections.

The Spring 2013 Friends Lecture Series brings together leading historians of art and of science to consider ways in which knowledge was made visible in Early Modern Europe. The series builds upon and critically engages with Svetlana Alpers’ ground-breaking book, The Art of Describing. Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (1983). It addresses a range of visual materials, including bone and wax, tables and charts, as well as oil paintings and prints. The lectures will explore the quest for knowledge with reference to physical spaces such as the humanist cabinet, the Kunstkammer and the anatomy theatre. The series is organised in conjunction with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation interdisciplinary MA on Visualizing Knowledge in the Early Modern Netherlands c. 1550 -1730.

Supported by Friends of The Courtauld

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