Imaging in Science

Most of what we call ‘abstraction’ is in practice the belief that a written inscription must be believed more than any contrary indications from the senses.
Bruno Latour

Imaging and observational technologies play a central role in scientific practice. I began studying these questions as a historian of 17th century astronomy and 18th century chemistry, then turning to 20th century subway maps, and finally the digital age.

My award-winning paper on the London Underground Map examined the role of iconic images in how we interact with objects. I co-edited a fresh volume of the classic Representation in Scientific Practice with Michael Lynch, Steve Woolgar, and Catelijne Coopmans that brings together contemporary work on representational technologies in scientific work; it also contains an essay that conveys my key ideas about theory-laden representation. And my first book project describes at how scientists work with digital imaging technologies and robots on another planet to produce knowledge about Mars.

In the history of science, too, I have published several pieces about how early modern astronomers like Johannes Hevelius or Robert Hooke incorporated the novelty of the telescope and print media into their work, with what consequences for the circulation of knowledge. I have also spent considerable time studying Madame Lavoisier's drawings in the chemical revolution and the scientific scenes of Joseph Write of Darby.

Key Publications

Edited Collection

Mars in the Making: Digital Documentary Practices in Planetary Science

Documenting the World, ed. Kelly Wilder & Gregg Mitman (University of Chicago Press, 2016)

Edited Collection

Drawing As: Distinctions and Disambiguation in Digital Images of Mars

Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited, ed. Catelijne Coopmans, Janet Vertesi, Michel Lynch and Steve Woolgar (MIT Press): pp. 15-36.

Edited Volume

Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited, with Catelijne Coopmans, Michael Lynch and Steve Woolgar

University of Chicago Press


Instrumental Images: the Visual Rhetoric of Hevelius’ Machina Coelestis

British Journal for the History of Science, 43.2: 209-243.