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

Research Seminar

  • Admission until 11:30
  • Date: Jan 29, 2020
  • Time: 11:00 - 13:00
  • Speaker: Christoffer Basse Eriksen
  • Location: Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, 00187 Rom
  • Contact: boehm@biblhertz.it
Picturing Seeds of Poppy: Microscopes, Specimens and Visualization in 17th Century England<i></i><sub></sub><sup></sup>
As microscopes were perfected during the 17th century, many overlooked natural objects were suddenly seen with a new eye. One of these was the poppy seed. Between 1663 and 1682, three images of poppy seeds were published as the result of the microscopic observations of Henry Power, Robert Hooke and Nehemiah Grew.

In this seminar, I will approach these three images in two ways. First, I will reflect on the ways that knowledge of poppy seeds changed as it moved from the tradition of herbals and recipe books to specialized natural-historical publications. Second, I will show that although the three images all represent the same seed, they serve very different purposes. Focusing on this one specimen, the poppy seed, will allow me to highlight the individual visual strategies of the three microscopists and to discuss the relationship between specimen selection, scientific observation and visual representation.

Christoffer Basse Eriksen is a Carlsberg Research Fellow at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge. He works on early modern natural history and the invention of the microscope.

Scientific organization: Sietske Fransen

Image: Henry Power, "Experimental Philosophy, in Three Books: Containing New Experiments Microscopical, Mercurial, Magnetical" (London, T. Roycroft, 1664), p. 49.

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