Seminar 1: De-Centring the Big Picture


Professor Hatch during his talk.


Discussions continue over wine.

In the opening paper of our second seminar series on Thursday 5 May, Professor Robert A. Hatch (University of Florida) got us off to a rousing start with a paper entitled ‘De-Centring the Big Picture: The Scientific Revolution and the Republic of Letters’. In a wide-ranging and suggestive analysis, Hatch argued that correspondence networks were the foremost facilitators of the new science in the early modern period (and vice versa), and for the creation and of vibrant intellectual communities around emergent fields such as astronomy. Compared to printed texts, suggested Hatch, letters were immediate and inclusive, situated the discussion of intellectual themes within the minutia of daily life, and were the primary medium for the gestation and discussion as well as the ultimate dissemination of scientific ideas in this period. The importance of scribal publication as an end in itself throughout the seventeenth century was further emphasized during discussion. Hatch illustrated his talk with a dazzling series of maps and graphs generated from his impressive personal database of scientific correspondences (which includes metadata on the letters of Peiresc, Gassendi, Bouilliau, and many other luminaries), although the necessity of combining quantitative exercises with qualitiative assessments of the formation of epistolary archives was underlined during a lively question and answer session. Seminars take place in the Faculty of History on George Street on Thursdays at 3pm. For future talks in the series, please see the seminar webpage.

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