Brown Bag Lecture: “The Well Temper’d Engraver: Newtonian Optics, Theories of Proportion, and the Invention of Color Printing”

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Date: March 18, 2014
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Daniel Margocsy

This paper examines how a select group of Dutch scientific practitioners around 1700 used artistic anatomy, and especially theories of human proportions, as a model for developing a unified theory of science. The amateur philosopher Lambert ten Kate, the entrepreneurial printmaker Jacob Christoffel le Blon, and to a lesser extent the classicist painter Hendrik van Limborch collaborated on an experimental research program to reform the sciences and the arts, and came to believe that the same Pythagorean harmonies governed the structures of the human body, the diffraction of white light, and all other branches of knowledge. The culmination of their research program was Le Blon’s invention of color printing, an artisanal technology based on scientific principles. This talk examines why these practitioners decided to reduce all types of knowledge into one unified theory and how such a development influenced the intellectual property regime of the early Enlightenment.

Dániel Margócsy is an assistant professor of early modern European history at Hunter College–CUNY. He has coedited States of Secrecy, a special issue of the British Journal for the History of Science, and has published articles on the development of taxonomy, the visual culture of early modern anatomy, and the aesthetics of curiosities. He has held fellowships at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the NYPL, at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and at the Descartes Center for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities. His book, Commercial Visions: Science, Trade and Visual Culture in the Dutch Golden Age, will be published by the University of Chicago Press in 2014.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

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