John Dalton's molecular structures. Scatter plots and geometric diagrams. Watson and Crick's double helix. The way in which scientists understand the world – and the key concepts that explain it – is undeniably bound up in not only words, but images. Moreover, from PowerPoint presentations to articles in academic journals, scientific communication routinely relies on the relationship between words and pictures.
In Science from Sight to Insight, Alan G. Gross and Joseph E. Harmon present a short history of the scientific visual, and then formulate a theory about the interaction between the visual and textual. With great insight and admirable rigor, the authors argue that scientific meaning itself comes from the complex interplay between the verbal and the visual in the form of graphs, diagrams, maps, drawings, and photographs.
The authors use a variety of tools to probe the nature of scientific images, from Heidegger's philosophy of science to Peirce's semiotics of visual communication. Their synthesis of these elements offers readers an examination of scientific visuals at a much deeper and more meaningful level than ever before.
Alan G. Gross is professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including The Rhetoric of Science and Starring the Text: The Place of Rhetoric in Science Studies.
Joseph E. Harmon works as a science writer and editor at Argonne National Laboratory. He is coauthor, with Alan G. Gross, of several books, including Communicating Science, The Scientific Literature: A Guided Tour, and The Craft of Scientific Communication.
"Science from Sight to Insight addresses a question identified by scholars across the science studies spectrum: What role do visuals play in the formation and communication of scientific arguments? Gross and Harmon address this question with a theory of visualization in science rooted in philosophy, psychology, and semiotics, and they illustrate their theory in a fascinating sampling of cases that display their command of the history of science communication and of close reading practices. The book is a major contribution on a critically important subject."
- Jeanne Fahnestock, University of Maryland
"Modern science transforms the world as picture, claimed Martin Heidegger. Gross and Harmon take this insight and trace it through multiple sciences, disciplines, and historical examples showing how science uses words and images, verbal and visual interactivity for its powers of insight. This book is a tour-de-force which has reaped lessons from recent science studies and is a must read."
- Don Ihde, Stony Brook University and author of Expanding Hermeneutics: Visualism in Science