University of Cambridge > > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > Description, design and aesthesis in the work of John Ray and contemporaries

Description, design and aesthesis in the work of John Ray and contemporaries

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The place and meaning of ‘description’ in early modern natural history, philosophy and theology has barely received attention from historians of science. In this talk I will introduce examples of descriptive work in verbal, graphic and ‘sculptural’ forms of representation employed by John Ray, Nehemiah Grew and Robert Hooke. I argue that the representational strategies they employed in natural histories, whether pursued in words or images, cleaved to certain priorities of aesthesis. We can relate these to their broader natural philosophical and theological projects. I will also suggest that the verbal descriptions that made up natural history in Ray’s time demand aesthetic interpretation. That is, we need to think about the poetics and rhetoric of description if we are to understand its representational strategies.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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