On the Plurality of Worlds: Images of a New Cosmos

23 May 2012
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

470 Stephens Hall

Event Type

Lucía Ayala

When, in 1686, the engraving made by Juan Olivar for Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle’s “Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes” appeared for the first time, French society was shocked. This shock quickly spread throughout Europe.  Olivar depicted a Universe understood as a plurality of systems by means of an artistic language that improved the meaning of theoretical and abstract theories. This combination of artistic and scientific codes still prevailed in the later versions, revisions, variations and antagonisms proposed by artists and scientists to illustrate other editions of Fontenelle’s book.

In this talk, I present this particular episode in the history of astronomy in Europe since the end of the 17th century by analyzing the visual corpus of the whole editions of the “Entretiens”. Images of a Universe as a plurality of systems involve one of the greatest changes in our worldview and, furthermore, their evolution run parallel to the general development of modern science.

Re-reading history of science through its visual productions from an art historical perspective allows us to deal with different (and complementary) contents than typical histories based on textual sources.

This event is sponsored by CSTMS.
Additional sponsorship comes from:  Office for the History of Science and Technology

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