Matters of thought: models and knowledge-production in the early-modern world

Model of a twin-hulled ship designed by Sir William Petty FRS (c. 1685)

History of science workshop organised by Dr Simona Valeriani.

About the event

Simona Valeriani is a member of the Research Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

This one-day workshop will focus on the role played by models in the production and circulation of knowledge, and their function as ‘loci’ in which ideas are tested and future scenarios materialized. The emphasis will be on three-dimensional models in relation to a fourth dimension, time.

An interest in the connection between visual culture and science has been steadily growing over the last decades in scholarly debates around the history and philosophy of science However, attention in this area has largely been limited to two-dimensional representations such as drawings and diagrams. Some studies have offered valuable theoretical insights into the use of conceptual and mathematical models, but this work has mainly focussed on modelling in modern science.  And while some historical investigations have specifically considered three-dimensional models, particularly those of the 18th and 19th century, such literature has emphasised the role of models as teaching instruments and as demonstration objects: that is, rhetorical tools rather than agents in the production of knowledge.

The aim of this workshop is instead to elucidate the role of three-dimensional models in knowledge production, focusing on the early-modern period. Significantly, the workshop aims to bring together scholars working on similar issues in different cultures, including China and Japan, asking a number of questions such as: Are there region-specific approaches to models and their role in communicating knowledge? How do these choices relate to local understandings of nature, ‘bodyness’ and material inventiveness?

This event is co-sponsored by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Attending this event

All are welcome to attend. There is an attendance fee of £24 (full day, including lunch) or £10 (part day, not including lunch). Please register in advance via our registration site. Enquiries should be directed to library@royalsociety.org.

Matters of thought: models and knowledge-production in the early-modern world 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

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