‘Matters of Thought: models and knowledge-production in the early-modern world’

Monday 16 September

The Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace

Organised by Dr Simona Valeriani, V&A

Co-sponsored by the Victoria and Albert Museum, this one-day workshop will focus on the role played by models in the production and circulation of knowledge, and their function as ‘loci’ in which ideas are tested and future scenarios materialized. The emphasis will be on three-dimensional models in relation to a fourth dimension, time.

An interest in the connection between visual culture and science has been steadily growing over the last decades in scholarly debates around the history and philosophy of science However, attention in this area has largely been limited to two-dimensional representations such as drawings and diagrams. Some studies have offered valuable theoretical insights into the use of conceptual and mathematical models, but this work has mainly focussed on modelling in modern science.  And while some historical investigations have specifically considered three-dimensional models, particularly those of the 18th and 19th century, such literature has emphasised the role of models as teaching instruments and as demonstration objects: that is, rhetorical tools rather than agents in the production of knowledge.

The aim of this workshop is instead to elucidate the role of three-dimensional models in knowledge production, focusing on the early-modern period. Significantly, the workshop aims to bring together scholars working on similar issues in different cultures, including China and Japan, asking a number of questions such as: Are there region-specific approaches to models and their role in communicating knowledge? How do these choices relate to local understandings of nature, ‘bodyness’ and material inventiveness?

All are welcome to attend. A programme and registration details are available via the Royal Society website: