The aim of this article is to suggest that some scientific instruments may be considered worthy of their own biographies and that such a genre may have its own merits and charms. The instrument chosen to exemplify this point is a Hartnack microscope objective lens of about 1860 which served, in turn, the histologist and anatomist Albert von Kölliker, the comparative anatomist Robert Wiedersheim. the surgeon Frederic Kammerer, and the embryologist Edmund Beecher Wilson, and which travelled from Paris to New York by way of Würzburg, Genoa, and Freiburg. Despite a fairly discouraging archival situation, the search for the circumstances surrounding the various employers of "8K" allows us to view the role of microscopes in nineteenth-century biology from a new angle. In additon, the fate of "8K" itself endows this objective with a symbolical significance which transcends its specific functions.
This article opens with a distinction between David Hockney's strong and weak theses. According to the strong thesis, in the period 1430-1860, optical tools (mirrors, lenses, the camera obscura, etc.) were used in the production of paintings; according to the weak thesis, mirrors and lenses merely inspired their naturalistic look. It will be argued that while for the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there is little evidence in favor of the strong thesis, the case is different for the seventeenth century, for which the use of optical instruments by painters is a documented fact. In this article, an early case is examined. The extant preparatory drawings of Gaspare Vanvitelli (Gaspar van Wittel, 1652-1736) suggest that this cityscape painter relied on a camera obscura. But even here, the strong thesis must be tempered. The fact that several stages of artistic transformation separate the camera obscura projection from the finished painting undermines Hockney's analogy between optically assisted painting and 'naturalistic' photography.
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Early Science and Medicine (ESM) is a peer-reviewed international journal dedicated to the history of science, medicine and technology from the earliest times through to the end of the eighteenth century. The need to treat in a single journal all aspects of scientific activity and thought to the eighteenth century is due to two factors: to the continued importance of ancient sources throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period, and to the comparably low degree of specialization and the high degree of disciplinary interdependence characterizing the period before the professionalization of science.
The journal, which concerns itself mainly with the Western, Byzantine and Arabic traditions, is particularly interested in emphasizing these elements of continuity and interconnectedness, and it encourages their diachronic study from a variety of viewpoints, including commented text editions and monographic studies of historical figures and scientific questions or practices.
Early Science and Medicine contains an extended book review section and occasionally dedicates special feature sections to emerging historiographic fields and methods of research.
The main language of the journal is English, although contributions in French and German are also accepted.