Visualizing the World. Epistemic Strategies in the History of Scientific Illustrations

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The history of scientific illustrations is a story that correspond the cultural, economic, political and scientific history of the world. A look into the history of sciences displays that pictures and illustrations had a decisive role for the sciences progressive success and rising societal status from the sixteenth century. The illustrations visualized the unknown to graspable facts. Without the pictures the new discovered continents, the blood circulatory system and the body’s muscles had remained theoretical proclamations. The scientific discoveries became visible and communicated, to a wider audience by its illustrations.
The scientific illustrations and maps were intertwined with an epistemic ambition to unveil the true natural order. During the seventeenth century the concept of objectivity was interpreted as a quest for revealing nature’s ideal order, a task only feasible for the brilliant artist to accomplish. The epistemic ambition concurred with the belief that only one true ontological order existed that the scientific knowledge had to uncover. This concept of objectivity was succeeded by the modern concept of objectivity which equated objectivity with impartiality and elimination of the scientist’s subjective bias.
The view from “nowhere” is still a valid, ruling definition of objectivity. However, the presence and huge expansion of computational pictures in the sciences as well in everyday life raises the question if a new sense of objectivity is framed. In physics and chemistry the produced pictures intend to be contributions to an ongoing theoretical discussion, about a nature in constant flux, let it be molecules or artificially processed materials in the nanoscale. The traveller designs her own map in advance, mixing the Google earth features with the personal arrangements. For both the scientists and the laymen the modernist objective virtues of detachment, impartiality and disinterestedness have been supplemented by a return of subjective involvements.


Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Idé- och lärdomshistoria
  • Filosofi


TidskriftIdeas in History. The journal of the Nordic Society of the History of Ideas
VolymVolume 5, 2010-2011
Utgåva nummerNo. 1-2
StatusPublished - 2012
Peer review utfördJa


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