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Biomedicine in museums

CFP: Summer School on the History of the Life Sciences: "Visualising Nature" (and biomedicine too, I guess?), July 2007

By November 27, 2006No Comments

Just got this from one of the organizers — looks like an interesting meeting to all of us who work on visualisation:

Visualising Nature: Making Images and the Production of Biological Knowledge from Early Modern Natural History to Contemporary Life Sciences

Ischia Summer School on the History of the Life Sciences Ischia, 3 July – 10 July, 2007.

1. Brief introduction to the theme

The 2007 summer school will explore the relationship between making and knowing in the biological sciences as mediated by visual culture from the Renaissance to the modern day. We intend to focus on three interrelated themes. One theme concerns craft practices and the development of visualising technologies. The development of such techniques (engraving, photography, film and digital technologies) invariably takes place outside biology and therefore gives rise to problems of application, conversion and definition, all of which impact on the practice of biology. The second theme concerns the historical relation between theory and image in the formation of scientific arguments. The iconic images of an evolutionary tree, biochemical cycles, or the double helix, for example, are wedded to our understanding of current research. Visualisation, in this sense, is the statement of theory. Third, there are the cognitive claims about reality that are made through images, for example through graphs, diagrams, moving images, time lapse or changes of scale, microscopy, computer simulation, museum display, the rhetoric of book illustration, TV films and medical imaging. Perceptual evidence has traditionally been given privileged epistemic status in science. Yet increasing use of non-optical detection methods and increasing reliance on statistical processing to generate data renders the status of the knowledge problematic.

2. Programme

The aim is to bring together graduate and recent postdoctoral students with experts from a number of different fields to engage with the following key topics:

1.Techologies of making images and presenting biological materials, including the fine arts, drawing and painting, craft practices, the impact of mechanical reproduction, anatomies and preparations (eg slides, models, specimens)

2.Changes of scale, microscopy, photography, X-Rays, the consolidation of agreement about the meaning of images, eyewitness reports, realism and observation, training

3.Film and digital technologies; new instruments and new conceptual problems

4.Images as theory and tool, diagrams, maps, scans, tables, graphs and iconic representations such as evolutionary trees, biological cycles, isotopic tracing

5.Computer simulations, the enhancement of reality, the place of perceptual evidence in modern biology, genetic and epidemiological maps, the depiction of cells

6.Visual display, museums, book illustration, spectacle, mass-media outlets It is hoped to arrange time for participating students also to present a brief account of their own work. In addition there will be opportunities for a film screening, provisionally a selection of Jean Painlevé’s classic natural history films (1940s). A visit to the laboratory of the Stazione Zoologica ‘Anton Dohrn’ in Naples is planned during which students can explore modern laboratory techniques and the famous aquarium.

3. Practical Information

The emphasis of the course will be on encouraging discussion and exchanging ideas across disciplinary boundaries. English is the official working language. A background reading pack for the workshops will be sent to each participant in advance. The first and last days (Tuesday 3 July and Tuesday 10 July) are travelling days with no lectures scheduled. The island of Ischia can only be approached by ferry from Naples and participants arriving by air are encouraged to check the ferry timetables carefully. We will provide all necessary information. The weather at this time of year is extremely warm and sunny, especially around midday, and for comfort we schedule our sessions during the morning and late afternoon. Applications should be sent by 30 January 2007 to: Professor Bernardino Fantini Institut d.Histoire de la Médecine et de la Santé, CMU, Case postale, 1211 Genève 4, Switzerland Phone: +41.22.379.57.90; Fax: +41.22.379.57.92 Email: Please include a brief cv, a statement specifying your academic experience and interest in the course topic, and a letter of recommendation. The group will be limited to about 25 participants. There is a small charge for students of 400 Euros each. This fee covers full board and lodging. The organisers gratefully acknowledge awards from the VolkswagenStiftung and the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (Naples).

Supported by: Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn (Naples) Institut d’Histoire de la Médecine et de la Santé (Geneva) Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Berlin) History of Science Department, Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass)

Directors of the School: Giorgio Bernardi and Christiane Groeben (Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Naples) Janet Browne (Harvard), Bernardino Fantini (Geneva), Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (Berlin).

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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