Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science Drift 25, Rm. 102 Organized Session
25 Jul 2019 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM(Europe/Amsterdam)
20190725T0900 20190725T1145 Europe/Amsterdam Emotions of Observation: Affective Investments in Visualized Research Objects

It is well known that scientific images have evoked emotional responses from (to name but a few) wonder to boredom, fear to possessiveness, and puzzlement to mastery. Yet outside certain specific contexts, notably Romanticism and the sublime, historians of science have paid more attention to the visual experiences of popular writers, students and laypeople than to those of researchers, whose efforts to drain observation of emotion have been a more prominent concern. This session proposes to take a more concerted approach to the emotional relations of observational scientists to their research objects. These affective investments encompass long-term attachments to classic images, with their comforting familiarity, and the thrills and spills of discovery. Discovery accounts have celebrated work and skill, but also invoked more complex emotions, especially various kinds of loss. On the one hand, new sights have threatened the status of much-loved pictures and models. On the other, observers tended to worry until confirmation that the putative novelties, if not lost to one accident or another, might themselves be revealed as artefacts. There is a rich field here for the exploration of appropriately historicized observation, discovery, and emotions.

Organized by Nick Hopwood

Drift 25, Rm. 102 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

It is well known that scientific images have evoked emotional responses from (to name but a few) wonder to boredom, fear to possessiveness, and puzzlement to mastery. Yet outside certain specific contexts, notably Romanticism and the sublime, historians of science have paid more attention to the visual experiences of popular writers, students and laypeople than to those of researchers, whose efforts to drain observation of emotion have been a more prominent concern. This session proposes to take a more concerted approach to the emotional relations of observational scientists to their research objects. These affective investments encompass long-term attachments to classic images, with their comforting familiarity, and the thrills and spills of discovery. Discovery accounts have celebrated work and skill, but also invoked more complex emotions, especially various kinds of loss. On the one hand, new sights have threatened the status of much-loved pictures and models. On the other, observers tended to worry until confirmation that the putative novelties, if not lost to one accident or another, might themselves be revealed as artefacts. There is a rich field here for the exploration of appropriately historicized observation, discovery, and emotions.

Organized by Nick Hopwood

Albums of Emotion: Astronomical ImagesView Abstract
Organized Session 09:00 AM - 09:30 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 07:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 07:30:00 UTC
Upon seeing Lord Rosse’s rendition of a nebula in 1845, John F. W. Herschel declared to a large audience that “he could not explain to the section the strong feelings and emotion with which he saw this old and familiar acquaintance in the very new dress.” Previously, when at his own telescope, Herschel had acquired strong feelings and become friendly with the celestial object M51, one that his own Father had formerly observed and drawn. Behind these palpable emotions and legacies were layers of labor that sometimes, as Herschel also reported, caused tremendous amounts of “despair” and “frustration.” Indeed, the visualization of objects and the means of acquiring them (e.g. telescopes) came with memories and experiences, uplifting and discouraging. In each case, what was visualized contained complex emotions, much like a family album. This presentation will contextualize these emotionally packed astronomical images—usually found in catalogues of scientific objects of the nineteenth century—into a broader history of collecting in the nineteenth-century, including family albums and memorabilia. By doing so, we come to see that scientific images were—besides much else—emotional badges of work and legacy.
Presenters
ON
Omar Nasim
University Of Regensburg
Visualizing Emotions and the Emotional Economy of ScienceView Abstract
Organized Session 09:30 AM - 10:00 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 07:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 08:00:00 UTC
The study of emotions attracted renewed interest in the nineteenth century. Following Duchenne de Boulogne’s Mécanisme de la Physionomie Humaine (1862) and Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872), physiologists, psychologists and neurologists turned to photography and other visualization technologies to understand the correlation between emotions, facial expressions and muscular and nervous movements. Studies by Charcot and others such as the psychologist Georges Dumas and the physiologist Charles Émile François-Franck employed different photographic technologies, from stereography to chronophotography, to produce visual observations of emotional expressions. These experiments, often performed on asylum patients, sought to identify normal and pathological expressions of emotions. Through the analysis of prints, albums and other photographic material, this presentation will examine the emotional economy of science underpinning medical studies on emotions. In particular, it will focus on the parallels between emotions considered as normal and pathological in scientific studies, and the emotional style at the time. From this perspective, pathological emotions were not only medically but also socially and culturally abnormal. Researchers and photographers, therefore, were invested in obtaining successful experimental results which mirrored and supported with scientific evidence their own emotional regime. Photographic visualisations played a key role in this process, working both as scientific evidence of the physiological nature of emotions and cultural objects that identified normal and abnormal subjects according to the emotions they expressed.
Presenters
BP
Beatriz Pichel
De Montfort University
"When I Saw It, I Began to Scream": Discovery and Loss in the Visual History of Human EmbryologyView Abstract
Organized Session 10:15 AM - 10:45 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 08:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 08:45:00 UTC
“When I saw it, I began to scream.” Thus Miriam Menkin recalled her reaction, at the Free Hospital for Women in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1944, on observing what she believed was the first human egg ever fertilized in vitro. “Shaking like a leaf,” she “felt like—who was the first man to look at the Pacific—Balboa?” Such a precious specimen as this “beautiful two-celled egg” called for an elaborate preservation procedure—but in the process, Menkin lost the embryo for ever. She and her boss John Rock “came to think of it as the first miscarriage in vitro.” The talk will place this distinctively gendered account of discovery and loss alongside others from the history of human embryology since the eighteenth century. It will analyse researchers’ emotional relations to visual objects they valorized as among the greatest treasures a scientist could own, and stored in vaults and safes. I shall suggest that, while discovery accounts of human origins tended to invoke tropes of the sublime, tales of loss stress the difficulty of working with tiny, fragile materials and the worth of what was saved. That could be either drawings or photomicrographs of the mislaid object or replacement preparations. Yet specimens were lost not only physically, but also through their reclassification as abnormal or artefactual—many later specialists’ opinion of Menkin’s. Knowledge of further analysis and future recognition has selected and coloured those stories of visual encounters in which the apparently spontaneous expression of emotion serves as a marker of authenticity.
Presenters Nick Hopwood
HPS, University Of Cambridge
Beautiful or Dull? Studying Chromosomes under the MicroscopeView Abstract
Organized Session 10:45 AM - 11:15 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 08:45:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 09:15:00 UTC
To study chromosomes under the microscope they need to be spread and flattened, fixed and stained. In short, they are highly manipulated dead objects in an artificial milieu. Yet in practitioners’ eyes, chromosomes have become “hypnotically beautiful objects” (Hsu 1979) to which researchers have remained deeply committed. What makes their observation so fascinating and how has this fascination shaped the development of the field? Drawing on the descriptions of chromosome researchers from the mid-1950s to the early 21st century, the paper will distinguish two kinds of emotional responses to microscopic observation: on the one hand, the emotional attachment to intimately known objects observed over a long period of time and, on the other, the excitement over new observations, combined with the effort of documenting the extraordinary evidence and the possibility of its loss. More generally, the paper will consider how the reliance on visual evidence represented the strength but also the weakness of chromosome research, especially in the eyes of molecular biologists who spurned images in favor of mathematical analysis and causal explanations.
Presenters
SD
Soraya De Chadarevian
University Of California Los Angeles
Commentary: Emotions of Observation: Affective Investments in Visualized Research ObjectsView Abstract
Organized Session 11:15 AM - 11:45 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 09:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 09:45:00 UTC
Presenters
MB
Mirjam Brusius
German Historical Institute London
University of Regensburg
De Montfort University
HPS, University of Cambridge
University of California Los Angeles
German Historical Institute London
German Historical Institute London
Maastricht University
Mr. Chaokang Tai
University of Amsterdam
Ms. Iris Clever
PhD Candidate, UCLA
University of Exeter
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