Article ID: CBB478180881

Dust Plate, Retina, Photograph: Imaging on Experimental Surfaces in Early Nineteenth-Century Physics (2015)


This article explores the entangled histories of three imaging techniques in early nineteenth-century British physical science, techniques in which a dynamic event (such as a sound vibration or an electric spark) was made to leave behind a fixed trace on a sensitive surface. Three categories of “sensitive surface” are examined in turn: first, a metal plate covered in fine dust; second, the retina of the human eye; and finally, a surface covered with a light-sensitive chemical emulsion (a photographic plate). For physicists Michael Faraday and Charles Wheatstone, and photographic pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot, transient phenomena could be studied through careful observation and manipulation of the patterns wrought on these different surfaces, and through an understanding of how the imaging process unfolded through time. This exposes the often-ignored materiality and temporality of epistemic practices around nineteenth-century scientific images said to be “drawn by nature.”

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Authors & Contributors
Garuccio, Augusto
Hentschel, Klaus
Finger, Ehrhard
Endo, Shoji
Clarke, Bruce C.
Henderson, Linda Dalrymple
Foundations of Chemistry
Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker, Fachgruppe Geschichte der Chemie
化学史研究 [Kagakushi kenkyū; Journal of the Japanese Society for the History of Chemistry]
VIET: Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Pavia University Press
Stanford University Press
Sussex Academic Press
Reaktion Books
Yale Center for British Art
Science and art
Imaging technology
Talbot, William Henry Fox
Draper, John William
Vogel, Hermann Wilhelm
Priestley, Joseph
Fragonard, Honoré
Vavilov, Sergei Ivanovich
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
18th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
Great Britain
Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina

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