4A Lab Seminar
Pamela Mackenzie: As Seen Through the Lens: Developing a New Vision of Plants in the Seventeenth Century
Nehemiah Grew, “Vine Root Cut Transversely,” An Idea of Phytological History Propounded, 1673.
Using the newly developed technology of the microscope, late seventeenth-century European observers peered onto a world that had never been seen before. Through the collaboration of many individuals – lens grinders, naturalists, artists, engravers – a dense domain of minute textures and processes gradually came into focus. Nehemiah Grew, fellow of the Royal Society and curator for the Anatomy of Plants within the institution, was charged with the task of documenting and presenting his observations of vegetable life for his peers, often employing the microscope in his research. Although he partly communicated his findings through vivid and detailed written descriptions, he also created striking and intricate illustrations in order to more fully represent the strange configuration of the magnified objects he observed. His culminating work, The Anatomy of Plants, offers readers an elaborate vision of previously unseen worlds, using a visual language developed throughout more than a decade of careful plant observations and exchange with peers from across Europe. This presentation will discuss the training of Grew’s eye and hand through his often-collaborative image-making process and explore the epistemic significance of his shifting visual vocabulary over time.
Pamela Mackenzie is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia (Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory) and a Doctoral Fellow in the interdisciplinary programme 4A Laboratory: Art Histories, Archaeologies, Anthropologies, Aesthetics. She is working towards the completion of her dissertation on Microscope/Macrocosm: Early Modern Technology, Visualization and Representations of Nature. Her work explores visual epistemology, technologies of vision, and representations of nature in seventeenth-century scientific illustrations. She previously held a predoctoral position in Sietske Fransen’s research group "Visualizing Science in Media Revolutions" at the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max Planck Institute for Art History (2019-2021). In 2019, she was a research fellow at the Royal Society of London as a Lisa Jardine grant awardee and a visiting researcher at Lincoln University's School of History and Heritage under the supervision of Dr. Anna Marie Roos.
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