The Curious Role of Images in Early Modern Science

William B. Ashworth, Jr.

Linda Hall Library

Thursday, November 2, 2023 7:00 pm EDT

Linda Hall Library
5109 Cherry Street
Kansas City, MO, 64110
and Online Here.

There are many well-known printed images that have come down to us from the 17th century, such as Galileo’s drawings of the moon, Otto von Guericke’s experiment with the Magdeburg hemispheres, and the bulging veins in William Harvey’s arm.
One might think that reading these images is straightforward, but it is not. The Age of Galileo was still an emblematic age, and images usually had some kind of message to convey beyond mere depiction of an object or event. But after 1660 or so, matters changed, when it was realized that images could function as witnesses to scientific discovery. Images that showed generic entities were no longer useful, while those that captured exactly what the investigator was seeing became more desirable, since such an image could help confirm the evidence of the text. With that realization, the function of the image was altered, from emblem to visual record.
In his lecture, Professor Ashworth will discuss and document this important transition with images from the Library’s collection.