For this last week leading up to HSS, we will be changing up the scholar profiles to give some love to the scholars that work hard to assemble aesthetically pleasing and informational poster presentations for HSS. The poster session will be Friday, November 20th from 7:30pm to 8:30pm in the Grand Ballroom (Mezzanine Level) of the Westin St. Francis and will feature entries related to “Images of/in Science.” To give you a small sampling of what to expect, here is the second in our series of poster presenters.
Emily Beck, “Teaching Undergraduates: Scientific Communication and Leonhart Fuchs”
Abstract: My poster addresses using scientific images in teaching the history of science. When I bring my students to our rare book library to look at original source material, I inevitably run into the following scenario. I want to show them early modern materials, but they almost never read Latin (or German or French), and they certainly have never had paleography training, so they just look puzzled at the indecipherable text. This has led to some experimenting with examining examples of marginalia as images rather than looking at them as text in order to learn about scientific communication. My poster uses the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine’s copy of Leonhart Fuchs’s 1542 herbal De historia stirpium as a case study for this method of teaching. It has lots of different hands writing at different points in history, plus all of the images are colored and many have drawn additions, so it is a very rich text to work with.
What’s so great about poster presentations anyway?
One of the main advantages of a poster session is the ability to actually have conversations with participants. Because poster sessions are really based on discussion, I think there are more opportunities for conversations between presenters and viewers to ferment and develop into new and more meaningful directions for scholarship. And, obviously, talking about herbals demands images, and people who look at my poster will have a better chance to really examine the images I discuss.
What do you wish you could have included in your poster?
I wish I could have included even more images! Even though I can get my point across in a few images, seeing how the handwritten words and images are carried throughout the volume really drives home the point about communication. I also really wish I could have included images from two other books that we have at UMN. The first is a second copy of the same volume at the University of Minnesota with very different marginalia. The second is Anleitung zu der Pflanzenkenntniss by Salomon Schinz, published in 1744. The book uses the same woodcuts that Fuchs had made for his 1542 book but to accomplish different goals. The images from all three volumes together make it so clear how additions to the images (whether by painting or drawing) could shift the kinds of information that was communicated to readers.
Biography: I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota in the Program for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. My dissertation uses manuscript medical recipe books to discuss medical communities and non-professional medical practice in northern and central Italy during the long-sixteenth century. Early herbals have been a side interest of mine for a while, though, so I’m excited to have an opportunity to talk about one of my favorites this year at HSS!