Sietske Fransen, Ph.D.

Research Group Leader

Main Focus

  • Early modern history of science and medicine
  • History of the book
  • Visual Culture
  • Media Studies
  • Digital Humanities

Research Projects

Collaborative Vision: Depicting Microscopic Observations
Translating Medicine in the Premodern World
The Alphabet of Nature: Languages, Science, and Translation in Early Modern Europe

Publications (Selection)

  • "Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, His Images and Draughtsmen", Perspectives on Science, 27, 3 (2019), pp. 485544
    URL: (accessed 04.09.2019).
  • (ed. with Niall Hodson and Karl A.E. Enenkel), Translating Early Modern Science, Leiden 2017 (Intersections 51).
  • "Latin in a Time of Change  The Choice of Language as a Signifier of New Science?", Isis, 108, 3, (2017), pp. 629–635.
  • "Anglo-Dutch Translations of Medical and Scientific Texts", Literature Compass, 14 (2017), Nr. 4.
  • (ed. with Katherine M. Reinhart), The Practice of Copying in Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe (Special issue Word & Image, 35, 3), London 2019.

Publications (OPAC research)

Curriculum Vitae

Sietske Fransen is Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Bibliotheca Hertziana. After studying biology and medieval studies at Utrecht University, she received her MA and PhD degrees from the Warburg Institute in London with a thesis titled Exchange of Knowledge Through Translation: Jan Baptista van Helmont and His Editors and Translators in the Seventeenth Century. She was a postdoc researcher, first at the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science in Berlin (2014–2015) and then at the University of Cambridge (2015–2019) for the project Making Visible: the visual and graphic practices of the early Royal Society. She has held residential fellowships at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, the Descartes Center in Utrecht and the Research Institute of Erfurt University in Gotha.

Fransen has published widely on language and translation in seventeenth-century Europe as well as on the role of images in knowledge production. She has also worked extensively on the Dutch seventeenth-century microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and his use of visual communication. She is currently working on the role, function, and application of visualizations in the acquisition of early modern scientific and medical knowledge. She is especially interested in the process of abstracting knowledge from narratives in books and practical experiences and transposing it into visual forms like tables, diagrams, and abstract images. Her current book project discusses the changing role of translation and visualization as mediating factors between language and science in seventeenth-century Europe. By examining the relationship between Jan Bapista van Helmont (1579-1644) and his son Franciscus Mercurius (1614-1698), this book will show how language and scientific practice are intertwined and thereby demonstrate how the communication of science is strongly influenced by society, religion, and culture while also bearing the imprint of the personal interests and biographies of its practitioners.

Since October 2021 Fransen is a co-investigator on the project Visualizing the Unknown, which is funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and which explores early modern visual and material culture of microscopy and the fluid boundaries between science and art during this period.

Memberships/Honorary Positions
Since 2020: Member of the editorial board of NUNCIUS, Journal of the Material and Visual Culture of Science
Since 2019: Assistant Editor of Centaurus, a journal of the history of science and its cultural aspects
Since 2019: Member of the editorial board of Lias, Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture and its Sources
Since 2018: Member of the Library Committee of the Royal Society

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