How do scientists represent the previously invisible? How do they convince their peers, and communicate their observations with microscopes to a larger audience? Here, images are of crucial importance. A well-constructed scientific illustration could say more than a thousand words.
This project (2021-2027) explores the genesis of visual representations of the micro-world in the seventeenth century. Observing strange and unknown structures through microscopes, pioneers such as Robert Hooke, Johannes Swammerdam, Marcello Malpighi and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek faced unprecedented challenges. They had to find ways to correspond about the unknown world of insect-anatomy, bodily fluids and bacteria. To do so, they developed new visual idioms to analyse, interpret and shape their observations.
In the same decades, a novel medium increased the prominence of the image: the scientific journal, starting with the Philosophical Transactions in 1664. Images included in publications had a powerful impact on readers. Becoming crucial for the dissemination, discussion and confirmation of new knowledge.