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23 FEBRUARY 2014

Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight

20 February – 26 May 2014, Folio Society Gallery; admission free, London.

"Turning numbers into pictures that tell important stories and reveal the meaning held within is an essential part of what it means to be a scientist. This is as true in today's era of genome sequencing and climate models as it was in the 19th century.

Beautiful Science explores how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time.

From John Snow's plotting of the 1854 London cholera infections on a map to colourful depictions of the tree of life, discover how picturing scientific data provides new insight into our lives."

(The British Library)

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17th century • 1854 • 185819th centurybattlefield • Beautiful Science (exhibition) • big dataBritish Librarycartographychart • cholera • climate models • climate science • colourful depictions • Crimean War • datadata journalismdata visualisation • David McCandless • David Spiegelhalter • diseaseevolutionexhibition • Florence Nightingale • genome • genome sequencing • graph • Great Chain of Being (1617) • hierarchical visualisationhospitalillustrated diagramsinfographicinteractive visualisationinterpret meaningsinterpreting data • Johanna Kieniewicz • John Snow • London • Luke Howard • maps • Martin Krzywinski • mass data • Nigel ShadboltOpen Data Institute • picturing data • picturing scientific data • public health • Robert Fludd • rose diagram • Sally Daviesscience • science collections • science exhibition • seeing is believing • statisticstechnological changetree of lifeturning numbers into meaningvisual interpretationvisual representationvisual representation graphicallyvisual representations of scientific conceptsvisualising dataweather • William Farr • Winton Capita

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
06 OCTOBER 2013

Modern medicine evokes a Cartesian mind-body dualism

"If we look at the history of medicine, we can see that it became what it is today because of a sweeping social transformation that modernized Europe centuries ago. Urbanization and commerce, along with Protestantism and the Catholic Counter–Reformation, encouraged new ways of conceiving and interacting with nature. It was within this context that 'scientific medicine' was invented and elaborated. The particular scientific model that became predominant in Europe in the seventeenth century accepted the mind–body dualism of René Descartes, for whom the human body is a self–contained, entirely material machine. His contemporary, Baruch Spinoza, on the other hand, elaborated a more relational view, stemming from a Jewish tradition that regards the body as essential to a complex and ultimately spiritual being, and all beings as mutually dependent.

Spinoza's perspective is no less compatible with scientific medicine than the Cartesian view. For science has two complementary ways of explaining: by taking apart–as atomic physics mainly does–and by bringing into relation–as Einstein's relativity theory does. Spinoza was quite aware of the power of the first approach, as elaborated by Descartes and advanced by technologies such as the newly invented microscope. Spinoza acknowledges that the human body is composed of parts, and those parts of smaller parts still. But he recognizes also that bodies are encompassed by, and can be adequately understood only in relation to, unities larger than themselves, until we reach the widest system of all, which is 'the whole of nature.' Spinoza was an early exponent of what is known today as 'systems theory.'

Medicine in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries could have taken a more integrative path, in keeping with Spinoza's insight that we are guardians not only of our bodies, taken individually, but of the entire domain of nature with which they are continuous. Instead–for reasons that this essay will explore – mainstream medicine adopted the Cartesian machine model."

(Raymond Barglow, Tikkun Magazine, March 2002)

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16th century17th centuryAlbert Einstein • atomic physics • atomisticBaruch Spinozabodybringing into relation • Cartesian machine model • Cartesian view • Catholiccomplexitycomposed of partscontingencydualismhealth carehistory of medicinehuman bodyintegrative practices • Jewish tradition • Judaism • mainstream medicine • man and nature • material machine • medicinemicroscopemind-body dualismnatureProtestantismrelational aestheticsrelational viewRene Descartessciencescientific medicine • scientific model • self-contained • social transformation • spiritual being • systems theorytaking apart • theory of relativity • urbansation

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
29 SEPTEMBER 2013

Handmade in Britain: The Story of Wallpaper

"In the second programme in the series, presenter Paul Martin reveals the secret history of wallpaper from the 17th century to the present day.

The film explores how wallpaper, seemingly so fragile and easy to replace, provides a vital index of changing tastes in the home. The programme shows how from its earliest days wallpaper imitated other, more costly wall coverings: from the 17th–century papers that were designed to look like embroidered textiles to 18th–century flocked wallpapers. The latter, intended as a cheaper substitute for costly damasks or velvets, became a triumph of British innovation, coming to grace the grandest of state apartments and country house interiors.

Focussing on how wallpaper was actually made, the programme goes onto explore how it became one of the battlefields in discussions about design in the 19th century. For, although technological innovations in machine printing had allowed manufacturers to print elaborate designs with complex colour–ways, some commentators were shocked by the poor aesthetic quality of British wallpapers. The programme looks at how designers and reformers attempted to take the situation in hand: from 'The False Principles of Design', an exhibition organised by Sir Henry Cole, the first Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which sought to instruct the British public in good and bad design; to the pioneering work of Augustus Pugin and William Morris.

Finally, the film traces the fortunes of wallpaper in the 20th century. Patterned walls faced stiff competition from the purity of plain, painted or whitewashed walls, as advocated by modernists like Le Corbusier. However, new techniques, like screen–printing, allowed shorter runs of innovate wallpapers, which were aimed at architects and interior designers. And, as Paul Martin discovers, wallpaper is still flourishing at the beginning of the 21st century. A combination of digital printing, screen–printing and hand–printing allows companies, like Timorous Beasties, to produce exciting new designs.

Presented by Paul Martin, contributors include Christine Woods, Anthony Wells–Cole, Martha Armitage, Allyson McDermott and Paul Simmons (Timorous Beasties), as well as V&A experts."

First broadcast on 25 September 2013 on BBC Four as part of the Handmade in Britain series [http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03bm1rg].

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16th century17th century18th century19th century20th century21st century • Allyson McDermott • Anthony Wells-Cole • antiqueart and craftsArts and Crafts Movement • Augustus Pugin • bad design • BBC Four • changing tastes • Christine Woods • colourways • damask • deluxe item • design craftdigital printingdomestic material object • elaborate designs • embroidered textiles • flock wallpaper • good design • hand-printing • Handmade in Britain (series) • Henry Cole • industrial grime • interior design • interior designer • interior stylingLe Corbusierluxury • machine printing • makersmanufacturing technology • Marthe Armitage • Palladio Wallpapers • pattern • Paul Martin • Paul Simmons • poisonprinting processscreenprinting • stately homes • technological innovation • The False Principles of Design • Timorous Beasties • two-up-two-down • velvetVictoria and Albert Museum • wall coverings • wallpaperwallpaper design • wallpapering • William Morris

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
19 FEBRUARY 2010

Industrial and Social Heritage Accessible Through AHRC Pilot Project

"More than 75,000 intricate lace samples, considered to be of national and international importance, have been placed in a new archive at Nottingham Trent University. The collection – acquired by the university and its forerunners over many years through bequests from lace manufacturers and the lace federation – features many significant items, including some which date back to the 1600s. ...

A new steering group has been formed to support the collection, featuring a range of key academic experts as well as leading figures in lace and museology from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and The Bowes Museum in County Durham. The group will work to link the archive to other significant collections and will be responsible for future exhibitions, research opportunities and promoting and maintaining the relationship between Nottingham and the lace industry.

The majority of donations to the university's collection were made from the late 19th to the mid–20th Centuries and include single pieces, such as cuffs, bonnets and collars; garments and garment panels. There are items in manufacturers' sample books, photographs of lace from a breadth of sources and collections, and portfolios of machine–made lace. The collection not only includes British designs but also portfolios of lace from Italy, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Russia.

The collection is regularly studied and researched by representatives from The Lace Guild, various lace and textile organisations, academic experts and undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Dr Amanda Briggs–Goode, programme leader for Textile Design in Nottingham Trent University's School of Art and Design, said: 'It is important for us to conserve and understand the industrial, social and design heritage that this collection brings, and having an official archive space is the ideal way to achieve this. To date, access to the collection has been limited, but this will help us to form the basis of a professional archive which charts the history of Nottingham lace. ...

A project to pilot a database and make key parts of the lace collection web–accessible has also been recently completed, following funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council."

(Katy Cowan, 4 February 2010, Creative Boom magazine)

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1600s • 17th centuryAHRC • Amanda Briggs-Goode • archiveArts and Humanities Research CouncilBelgium • Bowes Museum • collectionconservationcraftcreative industriesdatabasedecorationdesign • design heritage • fabricFrancegarmentGermanyheritagehistoryHollandindustrial heritageindustrialisationlace • lace collection • lace federation • lace industry • lace manufacturinglace-makingmachine-madematerialmuseologyNottinghamNottingham Trent UniversityNTUpatternPortugalRussia • sample books • School of Art and DesignsearchSpainSwitzerlandtechnologytextile designtextilesUK • Venetian • Victoria and Albert Museumvintagevisual design

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
14 JANUARY 2009

Still-life painting in seventeenth century Holland

"Still–life painting came to be very widely practised in Holland during the seventeenth century. With brilliant mastery of the methods of painting the artists convincingly reproduced the beauty of objects which surround us in our daily lives. Examples include the Breakfast paintings of Willem Claesz Heda (1594–1680/82) and Pieter Claesz (1596/97–1661), and Dessert by Willem Kalf (1622–1693)."
(petersburg–bridges.com)

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17th centuryartchiaroscuroHollandpaintingPieter ClaeszSt. Petersburg • still-life • Willem Claesz Heda • Willem Kalf

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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