Visualizing Science in Media Revolutions

Late medieval and early modern science were witness to two exciting developments: first, new means of communicating observations became available, largely as a result of the printing press, and second, new instruments and techniques for observing the world emerged. In other words, the scientific practitioners of these times not only peered into previously unexplored corners of the cosmos, both far away and close at hand; they also had at their disposal new media with which to represent and report back to the world on what they had seen. This research group examines how these developments interacted with each other and thereby created a new culture of visualizing science.

Leiden University Libraries, MS BPL 3018, f. 152r. Diagram of a solar eclipse, in the student notebook of Johannes Knotter (Leuven, 1683).

The research group explores the modes of communication (such as letter writing for known recipients, and the unknown audiences of printed books) and media in which early modern scientific practitioners visualized their ideas and illustrated their objects of inquiry. A new visual culture was generated in the early modern period by those in pursuit of knowledge due to a variety of reasons, such as: new media (as a result of the printing press); new tools of observing the world (such as telescopes and microscopes); and the generation of new questions about nature and the world. By comparing media, tools, and modes of communication in different fields of early modern science, such as medicine, architecture, astronomy, and mathematics, the members of this research group will investigate the impact of new media on the way in which science was communicated visually. Furthermore, the group will study how new forms of visualization had an impact on the questions raised by early modern practitioners of science and medicine. Building on previous research on epistemic images, history of the book, and history of observation in science and medicine, the group's focus will be directed at questions such as:

  • How did the printing press have a lasting impact on the observational and visualization skills of early modern scientific practitioners?
  • How did scientific practitioners communicate visually for different audiences, in manuscript (letters, notebooks, hand-written books) alongside printed books?
  • How did early modern scientific practitioners deal with the practical and moral issues surrounding the making and manipulability of images?

The research group's expertise in studying media, visualization, and science, will also be put to use to study the impact of digital media and digital tools on current working practices in the humanities and sciences. How are current innovations in media technology and data storage impacting the role of images in our own research questions and research methods? Through a series of small workshops the group will collaborate with researchers in the humanities, digital humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to open up new perspectives on how issues of new media and new methods of visualizing data pertain to our time. This exercise of reflection will raise an awareness of practices, possibilities, and struggles caused by the use of new media in both the past and the present.

Research Projects

With the discovery of the microscope in the early seventeenth century, an entirely new world became visible to the human eye. Images of these previously unseen objects were made in the form of drawings and prints and quickly started to circulate amongst European scientific practitioners. mehr
In recent years, translation (broadly defined) has emerged as a central research strand. Explorations of the epistemic process and impact of knowledge translation across linguistic, geographical, and spatial boundaries are crucial in our understandings of knowledge making. Premodern medical and health-related knowledge provides a distinct and compelling case in histories of translation, knowledge transfer, and appropriation. mehr
“I write this book in my mother tongue, so that those who will read it, will understand that the truth does nowhere appear more naked, than where it is stripped of all its jewelry.” Jan Baptista van Helmont (1579-1644), who wrote this sentence in the introduction to his medical works (Dageraad, ofte nieuwe opkomst der geneeskonst, Amsterdam 1659) was adamant to publish medicine and science in his mother tongue, Dutch, to give the clearest possible account of his ideas.  mehr


Ashley Gonik, M.A.
Structuring Information: Printed Tables as Organizing Tools in Early Modern Europe

Dr. Christoph Sander
Diagrams in Early Modern Science: the Case of Magnetism


The Perfection of Nature: Animals, Humans, and Race in the Renaissance

Mackenzie Cooley
Online event via Zoom and on site (previous registration)
16.12.2021 15:00 - 17:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Diagrams and Other Visual Aids in the Early Modern University Classroom

Mordechai Feingold
Online event via Zoom
11.11.2021 17:00 - 19:00

A Technology of Transparency

Sven Dupré
Event on-site only (prior registration required)
28.10.2021 15:00 - 17:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

'Sammelband Scientia': Experimentation in Renaissance German Instrument Print Albums and Manuals

Suzanne Karr Schmidt
Online event via Zoom
15.09.2021 16:00 - 18:00

Conference: Diagrams in Science, Science in Diagrams

Online event via Zoom
14.06.2021 - 18.06.2021

Measure as Erasure

Emanuele Lugli
Online event via Zoom
09.06.2021 16:00 - 18:00

The Layouts of Paratexts in 16th-century Learned Books

Ann Blair
Online event via Zoom
12.05.2021 15:00 - 17:00

The Nature of Exotic Shells: Labor and the Costs of Visibility

Claudia Swan
Online event via Zoom
07.04.2021 15:00 - 17:00

Magnets, Math, and Diagrams: Turning Visual Aids into Navigational Technology

Laura Georgescu
Online event via Zoom
24.03.2021 15:00 - 17:00

Tracing Courses, Training Sailors

Margaret E. Schotte
Online event via Zoom
24.02.2021 15:00 - 17:00

Seminar Series: Reflections on the Digital Turn in the Humanities and the Sciences

Online event via Zoom
18.12.2020 13:00 - 14:00
Online via zoom

Division and Affinity: Visualizing Diversity in Natural History, 17th ‒ 18th Centuries

Staffan Müller-Wille, Niklaas Goersch
Online event via Zoom
09.12.2020 15:00 - 17:00
Online via zoom

Still Lives: Representing and Looking at Nature Then and Now

Jaya Remond
Online event via Zoom
18.11.2020 15:00 - 17:00
Online via zoom

Seminar Series: Reflections on the Digital Turn in the Humanities and the Sciences

Online event via Zoom
13.11.2020 13:00 - 14:00
Online via zoom

Verbal and Visual Regimes of Aesthetic Experience in the Royal Society of London, 1650-1720

Alexander Wragge-Morley
Online event via Zoom
04.11.2020 15:00 - 17:00
Online via zoom

Seminar Series: Reflections on the Digital Turn in the Humanities and the Sciences

Online participation possible via zoom.
16.10.2020 13:00 - 14:00
Due to current safety regulations the workshop must take place without an audience on site.

Flotsam. Writing the History of Objects Travelling without Texts

Beate Fricke
Online Event – Registration Required
22.09.2020 15:00 - 17:00

Describing and Visualizing the Underworld: Athanasius Kircher’s Mundus Subterraneus and its Context

Monica Azzolini
Online Event – Registration Required
09.09.2020 11:00 - 13:00

Visualizing Language

27.02.2020 11:00 - 17:30
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Picturing Seeds of Poppy: Microscopes, Specimens and Visualization in 17th Century England

Christoffer Basse Eriksen
Admission until 11:30
29.01.2020 11:00 - 13:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Epistemic Imagery and their Functions: the Case of Diagrams

Christoph Lüthy
Admission until 11:30
13.12.2019 11:00 - 13:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Making the Map: Shared Knowledge in the Construction of Selenographies

Nydia Pineda de Ávila
11.11.2019 11:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

Comparative Tables to Choose the Right World-System: Visual Astronomy before Newton

Flavia Marcacci
10.10.2019 11:00
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom

"Visualizing Science in Media Revolutions"

18.09.2019 17:00 c.t.
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom
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