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Invisible Seminar



Organised by Claudio Pogliano (Università di Pisa), Michael Hagner (ETH Zürich) and Renato Mazzolini (Università di Trento)

Co-financed by the Università di Pisa
Further Network Members involved: Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Lorraine Daston (MPIWG)

In the last few decades scholars from very diverse disciplinary backgrounds have taken a growing interest in the complex issue of visual representation within science, exploring a broad range of types, aspects, and uses. The mass of studies produced has become increasingly wide and heterogeneous, now forming an impressive body of knowledge scattered throughout various journals and books. On the one hand this is of course a welcome and fruitful development, which on the other hand seems highly problematic. The term contagion is a good metaphor for what has happened recently; germs which started their life more or less thirty years ago have grown and reached their maximum output at the beginning of this new century.

However there is no consensus about which questions and methods historians of science should apply to the investigation of visual records. There are no clear canons and no fundamental rules. Everybody feels free to invent or experiment with various styles of research, and in this Tower of Babel the academic community has the freedom to discuss and judge the published results as they see fit. This also means that in the field of visual studies, particularly from a historical viewpoint, we should try to improve our work.

In the Invisible Seminar ten junior scholars (PhD students and Post-docs) selected by network colleagues, are asked to write a paper on the ‘biography’ of a single meaningful scientific image, conforming to certain general guidelines. The network organises and finances two meetings as occasions for shared discussion with the senior scholars involved in between which the seminar participants work and discuss their projects ‘invisibly’. The results of their work will be published in a special issue of Nuncius  2010.

Gallery of the Invisible Seminar

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The Images and Their "Biographers"

Lorenzo Beltrame Università di Trento & Silvia Giovanetti Università di Padova
Extraction of stem cells from the inner cell mass of a human embryo? Biography and social life of an uncertain origin image

Andrea Bernardoni IMSS, Florence
Biringuccio’s De la Pirotechnia: frontispiece and/or picture of boring machine

Jan von Brevern, ETH Zürich
An erratic boulder in the Swiss Alps photographed by Aimé Civiale

Mirjam Sarah Brusius, University of Cambridge

A photograph by Fox Talbot fundamental for Assyriological research

Elena Canadelli, Università di Pisa

Schiaparelli Canals on Mars and the Martians Controversy

Fabian Krämer, MPIWG
The Two-Legged Centaur by Aldrovandi

Stefano Gattei, Università di Pisa
Kepler's "School of Athens" for Astronomy: the frontispiece of Tabulae Rudolphinae (1627)

Omar W. Nasim, MPIWG Berlin
An Image of a Nebula: Victorian Stellar Astronomy

Katrin Solhdju, ZFL Berlin

Lateral view of the hand taken by Henry Head in 1904