Authoritative Images in Nineteenth-Century Natural History. Two Case Studies (Elena Canadelli)

Lisboa, 1 de Junho, 15h cancelada
Na FCUL, Edifício C8, Sala 8.2.13.
Comunicação proferida no âmbito do ciclo de Conferências HoST.

Sinopse (em inglês)

In the natural sciences the use of visual materials has always played a pivotal role both in the processes of gathering and disseminating knowledge and in the social practices of building and legitimating a scientific community. Far from serving as mere decorative appendages to the texts, natural history illustrations contribute to the construction of scientific information and data. Moreover, naturalists used a particular kind of images like portraits also as an effective “sponsorship tools”, to gain internal legitimacy and to construct their disciplinary and professional identity. Therefore, the use of images in the natural sciences context is pervasive.

The conference will focus on two case studies illustrating two different kinds of “authoritative images” taken from the Nineteenth-century natural sciences: from one hand, the case of the Apteryx (kiwi) – the wingless bird of New Zealand, whose first exemplar arrived in the form of a lifeless specimen in Europe in 1812; on the other hand, the so-called “Iconoteca dei botanici”, a significant photographic portraits collection of Italian and foreign botanists assembled at the end of the 19th century by the Italian botanist Pier Andrea Saccardo and preserved at the Botanical Garden of the University of Padova.


The case of the kiwi sheds light on how images had to serve the crucial function of demonstrating the reality of an animal inside the zoologists’ community and marked the circulation among a broader readership of scientific ideas at a time of rapid development in the natural sciences, while the “Iconoteca” points out how images worked as a social actor reflecting the relations between individuals within specific practices of knowledge.

Sobre a oradora (em inglês)

Elena Canadelli is a historian of science interested in visual studies in science, science museum studies, the history of evolutionary thought, especially in Italy, and the relationship between science and popular culture during the Nineteenth century. She is currently a postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Milano-Bicocca (Italy) and Associate Editor at “Nuncius. Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science” published by Brill. In 2009 she held a PhD in History of Science from the University of Pisa and since then she has been working as a postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Milano-Bicocca and at the University of Padova. She collaborated with the International Research Network “History of Scientific Objects”, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin and the Ernst-Haeckel-Haus, Institut für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Medizin und Technik, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena. In 2013 she held the National qualification as Associate professor in History of Science. She is author of several books and articles on the history of scientific museums, collections and images. She is currently working on the history of science and industry museums, especially in Italy, and writing a book about how science uses images to be published by the Italian publisher Carocci.