Taxonomy, Translatability and Intelligibility of Scientific Images

17 June 2016, 09:30 - 18 June 2016, 13:00

SG1 and SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT

Booking for this event is now open. The registration fee is £20 (including lunch on Friday and teas/coffees on both days). Please click here to register, booking closes on 13 June. For a student fee, please contact the project administrator

The establishment of scientific academies (Royal Society 1660, Academie Royale, 1666, Leopoldina 1652/87) is an important development in the history of early modern science as these institutions represented new, collective forms of investigating nature, and gave shape and authority to communities of investigators. The project, ‘Making Visible’, funded by the AHRC, and in partnership with the Royal Society, focuses on the visual and graphic practices to better historicize observational and experimental practices of one such institution, the Royal Society, in its first fifty years. 

Understanding the functions of images in shaping and disseminating collective natural knowledge requires comparative analyses of the functions of image, text and object in communicating knowledge; their effectiveness and limitations in resolving conflicts; and their uses in forming and defining a community. How did graphic craftsmen help visualize objects that had never been seen before? Were images sufficient to prove the veracity of an object, or did they require texts and other forms of persuasion? How ‘transparent’ were meanings of images: could they be understood without understanding the accompanying English text? Did certain types of images broaden the Society’s audience, or limit it? When the Society sought to gather information from far-flung places across the globe using lists and queries, did they also include instructions about aligning ways of visualization? Did images prompt others to collect and examine certain types of objects and problems, rather than others? 

The focus of this first workshop is the range of images (e.g. is there such a thing as a 'scientific' image?) used by the Royal Society, with a comparative angle (e.g. are there 'national' styles of scientific imagery?), and to examine more generally and critically the role of images as vehicles of knowledge transmissions in early modern scientific institutions. Each talk will last for 30 minutes, to allow for full discussion and raise larger questions and historiographic insights. There will be a Round-Table discussion at the end of the workshop to discuss current and future directions of research and collaborations

Organised by the Making Visible project at CRASSH

We are unable to arrange or book accommodation for delegates (other than invited speakers), however the following websites may be of help:

Visit Cambridge

Cambridge Rooms

University of Cambridge Accommodation service

Friday 17 June 2016

09:00 - 09:15


09:15 - 09:20

Sachiko Kusukawa: Welcome and Introduction

09:20 - 11:00

Chair: Felicity Henderson

  • Katie Reinhart (CRASSH, Cambridge) & Sietske Fransen (CRASSH, Cambridge), The Early Royal Society and the Classification of Scientific Images
  • Eric Jorink (Huygens Institute/Leiden), Nicolaes Witsen F.R.S. (1641-1717), Curiosity Visual Culture and the Emergence of a Global Network
11:00 - 11:30


11:30 - 13:00

Chair: Simon Schaffer

  • Scott Mandelbrote (Cambridge), Making Language Visible: The Example of Palmyrene 
  • ​Stephanie Moser (Southampton), Vital Testimony; Archaeological Illustration at the Society of Antiquaries of London
13:00 - 13.45


13:45 - 15:15

Chair:  Michael Hunter

  • Floriana Giallombardo (Palermo), Collections and Icono-Textual Media at the Service of Collective Empiricism; Paolo Boccones Travel in England in 1673
  • Wolfgang Eckart (Heidelberg), Liber Naturae made Visible in Late 17th Century: Illustrations in Publications of the Early Academia Naturae Curiosorum - Functions and Applications
15:15 - 15:45


15:45 - 16:30

Chair: Matthew Hunter

  • Felicity Roberts (King’s College, London), The Specimen and Representation: Visualizations of Natural Knowledge in Sir Hans Sloane’s Collection​
16:30 - 16:45

Making Visible Project website launch

Saturday 18 June 2016

9:30 - 11:00

Chair: Keith Moore

  • Heinz Schott (Bonn), Visualising Signs and Wonders of Nature: The Mergence of Empiricism and Speculation in the Miscellanea of the Early Academia Naturae Curiosorum
  • Noah Moxham (St Andrews), Illustrating the Philosophical Transactions in the 1680s
11:00 - 11:30


11:30 - 13:00

Round Table Discussion, Scientific Visual Culture: Current and Future Research Directions

1) Current and ongoing research

  • Alexander Marr (Cambridge)
  • Kim Sloan (British Museum)
  • Rainer Godel (Leopoldina)​​

2) Future research directions and collaborations