Raman Microscopy, Pigments and the Arts-Science Interface

Bakerian Prize Lecture by Professor Robin Clark CNZM FRS, University College London

Raman spectroscopy is a light scattering technique primarily used in the characterisation of vibrational modes of molecules and therefore in assessing the structure and composition of materials. When the light source such as a laser is coupled to a microscope, the resulting technique - Raman microscopy - is now recognised to provide very effective means for the identification of micrometre-sized grains of any material such as a pigment. The technique has the attributes of sensitivity, reproducibility and high spectral (c. 1 cm-1) resolution, along with those of being non-destructive and applicable in situ. It is thus appropriate to artwork and artefacts from which sampling is either undesirable or prohibited.

The lecture will be illuminated with studies leading to the rapid and effective identification of pigments on manuscripts, paintings, papyri, icons, ceramics and archaeological artefacts, leading to the establishment of artists' palettes at different periods and in different localities, together with comments on related scientific studies at the Arts/Science interface bearing upon restoration, conservation and dating of artefacts and the detection of forgeries. Rarely has an optical technique made such an impact on seemingly unrelated disciplines.

Raman Microscopy, Pigments and the Arts-Science Interface 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

Events coming up

  • The interaction of fire and mankind 14 September 2015 at The Royal Society, London Scientific discussion meeting organised by Professor Andrew Scott, Professor William Chaloner FRS, Professor Claire Belcher and Dr Chris Roos
  • The interaction of fire and mankind - further discussion 16 September 2015 at The Royal Society at Chicheley Hall, home of the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, Buckinghamshire Scientific discussion meeting organised by Professor Andrew Scott, Professor William Chaloner FRS, Dr Claire Belcher and Professor Chris Roos
  • Open House Weekend 2015 19 September 2015 at The Royal Society, London The Royal Society's building will be open to the public on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September 2015.

For more events please see the events diary.

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