AHRC-funded research project
CRASSH, University of Cambridge

How and when did science become visual? How did drawings, diagrams and charts come to be used alongside words and objects by a group of people who hoped to reform and establish a new form of knowledge of nature, based on collaboration, experimentation and observation in the second half of the century? Who made those drawings and diagrams, and what made them ‘scientific’?  The aim of this project is to understand the roles visual resources and practices played in the development and dissemination of scientific knowledge in the first fifty years of the Royal Society. As one of the earliest institutions dedicated to collective investigation of nature, the Royal Society had few precedents to follow, and faced challenges in forming and presenting a new kind of collaborative knowledge to its audience. Many of the publications sponsored by the Royal Society such as Robert Hooke’s Micrographia or Francis Willughby’s Historia piscium, as well as the institution’s journal, ‘Philosophical Transactions’, contained extensive illustrations. These were important projects, as the Society grappled with various strategies to present a new form of knowledge and establish its own authority in scientific matters.  The archives of the Society contain a rich variety of images that has not yet received much attention by historians of science. This project proposes to undertake a systematic investigation into the visual and graphic practices of the Royal Society during its first fifty years, and examine the roles the Society played in the emergence of a scientific visual culture in the early modern period.

Project Description


Research Team

PI: Professor Sachiko Kusukawa (HPS, Trinity College Cambridge)
CI: Dr Felicity Henderson (English, University of Exeter)
CI: Dr Alexander Marr (History of Art, University of Cambridge)
RA: Dr Sietske Fransen
RA: Dr Katherine Reinhart
Administrator: Judith Weik 


Advisory Board

Professor Simon Goldhill (CRASSH/Classics, University of Cambridge)
Professor Michael Hunter (History, Birkbeck, University of London)
Professor Matthew Hunter (Art History, McGill University)
Keith Moore (Royal Society Library)
Professor Simon Schaffer (HPS, University of Cambridge)
Dr Kim Sloan (British Museum)


Project Partner

The Royal Society, London


CRASSH lecture archive
The Big Draw – Seeing Closer
17 Oct 2015 11:00am - 5:00pm, The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG
Taxonomy, Translatability and Intelligibility of Scientific Images
17 Jun 2016 - 18 Jun 2016 9:30am, SG1 and SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT
In Waking Hours
22 Oct 2016 11:00am - 12:00pm, SG1 & SG2, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge
Scribal Ingenuity in Early Modern Europe
16 Nov 2016 9:00am - 12:30pm, Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall
Visual Tools in Medical Education in Seventeenth-Century England and the Netherlands
13 Mar 2017 12:30pm - 2:00pm, CRASSH Meeting Room

Making Visible Project Research Associate Sietske Fransen presents her work in progress

True to Nature: Seeing, Knowing and Drawing Fossils
21 Oct 2017 11:00am - 12:30pm, CRASSH Meeting Room, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge
Science made Visible: Drawings, Prints, Objects
2 Jul 2018 - 30 Nov 2018 All day, The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG
The Visual Worlds of the Royal Society
16 Jul 2018 - 17 Jul 2018 All day, Room SG1, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge
Materiality of Early Modern Optical Instruments
22 Jan 2019 10:00am - 1:00pm, Seminar Room 2, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, Cambridge


Reinhart K, (2019). Richard Waller and the Fusion of Visual and Scientific Practice in the Early Royal Society. Perspectives on Science.

Kusukawa S, (2019). The Early Royal Society and Visual Culture. Perspectives on Science.

Kusukawa S, (2019). Introduction to Making Visible: The Visual and Graphic Practices of the Early Royal Society. Perspectives on Science.

Fransen S, (2019). Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, His Images and Draughtsmen. Perspectives on Science.

Henderson F, (2019). Robert Hooke and the Visual World of the Early Royal Society. Perspectives on Science.

Fransen S, Reinhart K, (2019). The practice of copying in making knowledge in Early Modern Europe: an introduction. Word & Image.

Fransen S, Reinhart K, Kusukawa S, (2019). Copying images in the archives of the early Royal Society. Word & Image.

Henderson F, (2018). Material Thoughts: Robert Hooke’s Theory of Memory. In Jardine L, Manning G (Ed.), Testimonies: States of Mind and States of the Body in the Early Modern Period.

Reinhart K M, (2019). Richard Waller and the Fusion of Visual and Scientific Practice in the early Royal Society. Perspectives on Science, volume 27 (3 or 4).

Reinhart K, (2018). Eye for Detail: Images of Plants and Animals in Art and Science, 1500-1630, written by Florike Egmond, 2016. Early Science and Medicine.

Fransen, S., (2018). Review of Egmond, Eye for Detail: Images of Plants and Animals in Art and Science, 1500-1630. Nuncius, 22 (1), pp. 148-150.

Henderson F, (2017). Translation in the Circle of Robert Hooke. Translating Early Modern Science.

Fransen Sietske, Hodson Niall, Enenkel Karl A.E., (2017). Translating Early Modern Science. Netherlands: Brill.

Henderson F, (2017). Taking the Moon Seriously: John Wilkins’s Discovery of a World in the Moone (1638) and Discourse Concerning a New World and Another Planet (1640). John Wilkins (1614-1672): New Essays.

Kusukawa S, (2016). William Courten’s lists of ‘Things Bought’ from the late seventeenth century. Journal of the History of Collections.

Kusukawa S, (2016). Classics from this journal: Martin Rudwick’s ‘The Emergence of a Visual Language for Geological Science 1760–1840’, History of Science , xiv: 3, 1976, pp. 149–95. History of Science.

Kusukawa S, (2017). Eye for Detail: Images of Plants and Animals in Art and Science 1500–1630. Annals of Science.

Kusukawa S, (2016). 9 Historia Piscium (1686) and Its Sources. Virtuoso by Nature: The Scientific Worlds of Francis Willughby FRS (1635-1672).

Fransen S, (2018). Eye for Detail: Images of Plants and Animals in Art and Science, 1500–1630, by Florike Egmond. Nuncius.

Fransen S, (2017). Introduction: Translators and Translations of Early Modern Science. Translating Early Modern Science.

Fransen S, (2017). Latin in a Time of Change: The Choice of Language as Signifier of a New Science?. Isis.

Fransen S, (2017). Anglo-Dutch translations of medical and scientific texts. Literature Compass.

Fransen S, (2016). Karen Hunger Parshall, Michael T. Walton and Bruce T. Moran (eds), Bridging Traditions: Alchemy, Chemistry and Paracelsian Practices in the Early Modern Era. Social History of Medicine.



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Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk