Visualizing the Unknown

The international project "Visualizing the Unknown: Scientific Observation, Representation and Communication in Seventeenth-century Science and Society" aims at reconstructing the pioneering observations of seventeenth-century microscopists such as Robert Hooke and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. Probing into previously unknown structures contained within insects, sperm and bacteria, among other things, these scientists had to develop a new visual idiom to shape, record and disseminate their discoveries. What could they actually see? How did they seek to persuade their peers and the general public of the significance of their discoveries?
By using original microscopes, preparing specimens according to seventeenth-century methods, and consulting original drawings and notes, while also deploying modern, high-tech instruments, we will explore the challenges the earliest microscopists faced. The project will study the fluid boundaries between science and art, between material culture and European scholarly networks around 1700.
This project is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). It is a collaboration between Eric Jorink (Huygens Institute & Leiden University), Tiemen Cocquyt (Rijksmuseum Boerhaave), and Sietske Fransen (BHMPI). It brings together an international team of experts and will run over six years, starting 1 October 2021.
More information as well as updates on events can be found on the project website:

Current Projects

Sietske Fransen, Ph.D.: Collaborative Vision: Depicting Microscopic Observations

Former Group Members

Prof. Dr. Eric Jorink: Visualizing the Unknown. Scientific Observation, Representation and Communication in 17th-century Science and Society


From Leeuwenhoek to the Electron Microscope

Katharine Cashman, Matthew Cobb, Dirk van Miert
Venue: London, UK
Sep 14, 2023 06:00 PM - 07:30 PM (London UTC+01:00)
The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, St. James’s, London SW1Y 5AG, UK. HYBRID EVENT:

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723) and His Impact on the History of Microscopy

Venue: London, UK
Sep 14, 2023 09:00 AM (London UTC+01:00) - Sep 15, 2023 05:00 PM
The Royal Society 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, St. James's, London SW1Y 5AG, UK / Public event with ticket sales – please see website of the Royal Society here below

Drowning in Print

Leslie Geddes
Participation possible on site and via Zoom previous registration
Jul 6, 2022 03:00 PM - 05:00 PM (Local Time Germany)
Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Roma & Zoom

Visual and Material Culture of Microscopy in Seventeenth-Century Italy

Participation on site previous registration
Jun 22, 2022 - Jun 24, 2022

Otto Marseus van Schrieck, Johannes Swammerdam and Paolo Boccone: Visual Strategies and Communicating Science

Eric Jorink
Online event via Zoom and on site (previous registration)
Feb 23, 2022 11:00 AM - 01:00 PM (Local Time Germany)

This project is financed by an Open Competition Grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO), project nr. 406.20.FR.012.
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