Visual Cultures in Natural History, the Life Sciences, and Medicine

Images and the techniques for creating them have been essential to the sciences over many centuries. Scholars from across the humanities have used visual representations as a lens to explore the sciences from the perspective of visual cultures and thus illuminate processes and frameworks of knowledge-production. Taking a visual-culture perspective, this working group aims to go beyond the representational functions of visual images to include the materiality, production, use, and dissemination of images. We will consider the wider practices, tools and methods, skills, and infrastructures that support visual representations.
This working group invites a wide range of scholars from different fields to discuss works that examine the various roles of images in the history of science, technology, and medicine. The group will discuss work in progress (papers, chapters, projects) representing a broad range of topics and fields from natural history, the life sciences, and the medical sciences. While contributions will be discussed individually, we intend to explore the unifying question of how images have changed over time and across geographical regions and cultures of knowledge-production. In particular, we are interested in how their changing meanings as epistemic tools have subsequently transformed communities of knowledge, scientific ideas and reasoning, technologies, and medical and scientific applications and practices, and vice versa, how these helped turn epistemic tools into rhetorical tools, distributing science to larger audiences.

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Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to

Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • June 3, 2022

    James Elkins and Erna Fiorentini, authors of Visual Worlds: Looking, Images, Visual Disciplines, will be joining us on June 3rd at 12:00pm EDT to discuss their recently published textbook. This is a rich resource for anyone researching or teaching visual culture, covering topics such as animal vision, Theories of the Gaze, Wunderkammer Projects, Battlefield visualizations, Neuronavigation and Operational Images, and much, much more. You can find more information on the Oxford University Press site.
    This will be our last meeting before the group goes on hiatus for the 2022-23 academic year.
    Selections from Visual Worlds (TOC, Intro and Conclusion) are now uploaded. See you next week!

  • April 15, 2022

    Graylin Whitney Harrison (Stanford University), "The Stuff of Souls: I Novissimi in Early Modern Naples"

  • March 18, 2022

    Katherine M. Reinhart, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "Art & Empire: Circulating Visual Knowledge in the Global Early Modern World."

  • December 17, 2021

    Marco Tamborini, Institute of Philosophy, Technical University of Darmstadt, "Data and Visualizations of Deep Time," ch. for edited volume, Handbook of the Historiography of the Earth and Environmental Sciences. Edited by Elena Aronova, David Sepkoski, Marco Tamborini, Springer 2022. 

  • November 19, 2021

    To avoid conflicts with the History of Science Society meeting, we will not meet in November.

  • October 15, 2021

    Elisabeth Hsu, University of Oxford, “Movement that Generates Synchronicity” and "The Iconography of Time"

  • September 17, 2021

    Jennifer Tucker, Wesleyan University, "Over London at Night": Gasworks, Ballooning and Seeing the Thames 

  • June 18, 2021

    Hanna Lucia Worliczek, Department of History, University of Vienna (Austria), ch. ms. "Of fibroblasts and antibodies on Long Island - The becoming of molecularized imaging at the intersection of tumor virus research and cell biology at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the 1970s"

  • May 14, 2021

    Nick Hopwood, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, chapters from ms. Visible Embryos: A History of Human Development.

  • April 16, 2021

    Pamela Mackenzie, Max Planck Institute for Art History, Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome, will be presenting her work on images of bladder stones in the Royal Society collections: "Cures and Curiosities: Visualizing the Stone Disease."