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Visual Cultures in Science and Technology: A Comparative History


By: Klaus Hentschel(Author)

512 pages, 16 plates with colour photos and colour illustrations; 57 b/w photos and b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Oct 2014 | #214659 | ISBN-13: 9780198717874
Availability: Usually dispatched within 5 days Details
NHBS Price: £68.99 $91/€78 approx

About this book

Visual Cultures in Science and Technology is offers a broad, comparative survey of a booming field within the history of science: the history, generation, use, and function of images in scientific practice. It explores every aspect of visuality in science, arguing for the concept of visual domains. What makes a good scientific image? What cultural baggage is essential to it? Is science indeed defined by its pictures?

Visual Cultures in Science and Technology attempts a synthesis. It delves into the rich reservoir of case studies on visual representations in scientific and technological practice that have accumulated over the past couple of decades by historians, sociologists, and philosophers of science. The main aim is thus located on the meta-level. It adopts an integrative view of recurrently noted general features of visual cultures in science and technology, something hitherto unachieved and believed by many to be a mission impossible.

By systematic comparison of numerous case studies, the purview broadens away from myopic microanalysis in search of overriding patterns. The many different disciplines and research areas involved encompass mathematics, technology, natural history, medicine, the geosciences, astronomy, chemistry, and physics. The chosen examples span the period from the Renaissance to the late 20th century. The broad range of visual representations in scientific practice is treated, as well as schooling in pattern recognition, design and implementation of visual devices, and a narrowing in on the special role of illustrators and image specialists.

"This is a rich exploration of the visual cultures of science and technology. Its scope and depth are dazzling, ranging from the development of visual skills to philosophical implications, and from cinematography to Martian canals. Complemented by generous illustrations, this fascinating exploration leads to fruitful insights."
– Sean F. Johnston, University of Glasgow

"Visual Cultures in Science and Technology is an ambitious tome offering a comparative history of the role of visualization in science and technology throughout the past five centuries. Drawing upon an impressive array of works from numerous disciplines, including the history of science and technology, philosophy of science, science and technology studies, art history, and cultural studies, this encyclopedic work will become the standard to which all other subsequent works on visual studies will be compared. The meta-narrative of his comparative approach is predicated on numerous detailed microanalyses: there is nothing quite like it in the secondary literature."
– Myles Jackson, New York University

"This book is very readable, amply illustrated, and carefully documented [...] Highly recommended."
– R.M Davis, CHOICE


1: Introduction
2: Historiographic layers of visual science cultures
3: Formation of visual science cultures
4: Pioneers of visual science cultures
5: Transfer of visual techniques
6: Support by illustrators and image technicians
7: One image rarely comes alone
8: Practical training in visual skills
9: Mastery of pattern recognition
10: Visual thinking in scientic and technological practice
11: Recurrent color taxonomies
12: Aesthetic fascination as a visual culture's binding glue
13: Issues of visual perception
14: Visuality through and through

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Prior to his current full professorship in the history of science and technology at the University of Stuttgart, Klaus Hentschel was a Lecturer/Researcher at the Universities of Berlin, Göttingen and Berne, a Fellow at the Dibner Institute for the History of Science & Technology at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts 1996/97 and Ernst Cassirer Guest Professor at the University of Hamburg 2003.

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